Letter to the editor: Housing solutions
To the editor:
Lawrence has a serious and long-standing affordable housing problem. Perhaps fortunately, it has become an issue in the City Commission election. Certainly unfortunately, not one candidate has proposed an adequate solution, nor even an accurate understanding of the problem.
There are four technically feasible ways to provide sufficient quantities of affordable housing, namely:
1. Rent control laws.
2. Massive public expenditures on low-income housing.
3. Exactions on developers (i.e., build one scatter-site rent-controlled unit per so many new units).This is my preferred solution (though public housing would also be needed).
4. Provide substandard housing. For example, set up regulated tent cities. Or provide very small plots on public land with subsidized utilities and allow poor people to build and own shacks. As long as we have homeless people, this solution would perhaps be terrible, but also far better than what we are actually doing.
As evidenced by platforms of City Commission candidates, not one of these solutions is politically feasible here. For further evidence, note that Lawrence is not even willing to adequately fund its homeless shelter.
I think it is especially sad that the candidates most vocal about housing are proposing to simply let developers build wherever they want. That has never worked anywhere. Moreover, it is counterproductive because it leads to sprawl, hence more expensive costs of public services, hence higher taxes, hence higher housing costs.
I also fault affordable housing groups, which have never been honest about the full economics of the problem.