Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Arlington Should Say No to a Government Housing Authority

Housing prices in Arlington County continue to climb and it is becoming increasingly difficult for relatively low-income earners to live there. In an attempt to increase the amount of affordable housing the Arlington Green Party has collected enough signatures to bring the question to voters of whether to create a government housing authority to address the issue. Hopefully the voters of Arlington will reject this idea as they have in the past since more government is hardly the answer to a government created problem.

The Green party states that the creation of a government housing authority will make Arlington eligible for federal handouts and tax credits that will allow them to subsidize housing for low income earners. But these “solutions” just mask the problem; they do not solve it. The federal government is going broke and counties like Arlington should not count on taxpayers from around the country subsidizing their housing forever. They need to come up with their own local solutions, which involve reducing the government’s influence.

Arlington, like many places in the D.C. metro area, already has too much government intervention in the housing market. Arlington County has an entire website, Building Arlington, devoted to helping people navigate the 38 section zoning ordinance, an ordinance that includes 5 sections on “One-Family Dwelling Districts” alone. A homeowner needs 4 permits just to renovate their kitchen! Complicated zoning ordinances and excessive permit requirements dramatically increase the costs of producing housing. Minimum lot requirements like those found in the Arlington ordinance force builders to construct housing that is too large, and thus too expensive, for many buyers’ preferences. These government created hurdles are the real deterrent to affordable housing.

Rather than create another government agency that will only further complicate an already complicated housing bureaucracy the voters of Arlington should push for a liberalization of the local housing market. Let the producers and consumers of housing work together to find the solutions that fit each person’s individual preferences. Lot requirements, height restrictions and other zoning barriers reduce the supply of housing, especially at the bottom end of the market. This results in higher prices that reverberate upwards making housing more expensive for everyone. If the voters of Arlington really want more affordable housing they will let the market work.

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