Affordable Housing Myth

Be careful what you ask, because you just may get it. We ask the BRAC gods to shine upon us, and they did. Turn the page.

There are those who believe they can make the answers simple. Re-thing density. Change requirements for concurrency. Get on with building, and we worry about the niceties of planning and bringing infrastructure up to day some time in the future. The temptations for the political system will be to make the answers look simple. He who beats the drum defines the rhythm, and if we let ourselves believe we can accommodate thousands of new citizens by simply building more on smaller spaces, we run a risk of condemning our own future.

We could dance to the sound of one drum by letting ourselves believe that we can build now and ask questions later. I suggest that the whole process of development is much more complicated.

We have to come to grips with the cost of building. That cost will either be paid in a continuing climb in satisfaction with roads, bridges, water, sewer, and other things we require, or we will pay the costs in money to improve those services. With all due respect, there is no other choice.

We have listened to candidates run for office by telling us they could fix the problems by planning. I am bored to tears with planning, and with all due respect, the statement that planning will solve the problem is simply dishonest. We have plans. We have no money.

We have elected good people in County and City positions who I trust really believed when they were elected that they could get into office, quickly find all the government accesses, and move the County forward by redirecting funds where they need to be. They've been in office now, some of them for years, and the honest ones are coming back to us for the first time ever with a consistent message. They can provide for County operations, but they can't build new infrastructure without new money.

You accept the fact that these problems are only solved with money, and that the present millage rage, even with soaring appraisal values, can't get it done, there are several alternatives. The millage rate is one. Like most of the people who read this article, I pay plenty of property taxes. The sales taxes, impact fees, and other funding sources need to be explored. The probable truth is that no one funding approach will be acceptable or sufficient. A sales tax may not raise enough money to get the job done quickly enough to be successful. Impact fees design to carry the whole load of future growth are probably unfair and would destroy any hope of providing affordable new housing.

It’s time we held candidates to the task. Anyone who runs for office without talking about money, is being dishonest. If they believe the County has enough money with present millage to run the County and provide needed improvements, they should be held to the task of disclosing the fat in the present budget that could be applied to transportation improvements. A candidate who cannot or will not identify significant specific budget excess then he or she would be willing to redirect should be disregarded. A candidate who believes the improvements are unnecessary, is willing to except the inevitably growing community in every stifling conditions. A candidate who believes improvement of roads and bridges can be done without money, also believes the prices of gas is going down. Finally, a candidate who believes additional funding sources, or higher millage rate, or all of those are the right answer, should be required to step up and say which, when, and how much.

Please don't take these remarks to be critical of present elected officials. Politics demand that bad news be either not delivered, be lied about, or be presented in mushy, hard-to-understand, messages such that most people don’t really understand what they have been told.

We can’t afford to continue to elect messengers unwilling to tell us the truth. We can even less afford to shoot the messenger who does.

When we ask for affordable housing, we imply the acceptance of more housing and more people. If I am not shot in the next thirty days, I intend to return this issue with some specific thoughts about density and concurrency.