Tuesday, February 28, 2017

#TXLEGE: House Urban Affairs committee hearing illustrates why housing is an expensive cluster[REDACTED]....

"Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,"
2 Corinthians 9:10

The House Urban Affairs committee heard testimony today on an aspect of a state run (but federally funded) subsidized housing program this afternoon.  To be honest, we found the entire discussion infuriating.  If local governments didn't deliberately use zoning and permitting regulations to make it excessively complicated (ie. expensive) to build, there's wouldn't be a constituency for these types of subsidized housing programs in the first place.

The specific program is one that gives the local state rep a de facto veto over subsidized housing developments within their district.  This actually became a gigantic issue in Austin last year.  But the specific program is a symptom, the fact that local governments make it virtually impossible to build is the disease.

A representative from the Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing providers called regulations, zoning, and permitting: "a pretty intense process."  In context, he was arguing against engaging the local state rep in the process because they weren't intimately familiar with those things.  But, unintentionally, he made the case for why those processes should be dramatically simplified (if not outright eliminated).

The most infuriating part is that, while subsidized housing will never be sufficient to meaningfully impact affordability for the general population, it drives up housing costs for everyone who doesn't receive a subsidy.  Case in point: the program discussed today had about 2570 recent recipients in Harris County and 213 in Collin...but those are areas that have millions of people in the case of Harris and hundreds of thousands in the case of Collin.  Furthermore, decisions about who receives subsidized housing tends to be based on political connections rather than genuine need.

To his credit, Jason Isaac seemed to understand that these programs can't ever be sufficient but do make things more expensive for the rest of us; we encourage him to trust his instincts.

At this point, quoting Reagan has become a tiresome cliche, but we can think of nowhere where this one is more appropriate: "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

Bottom Line: Subsidies can never fix the problems regulation creates.

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