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The other side of the affordable housing equation: Editorial

Thursday, April 17, 2014

– The Oregonian, April 5, 2014

The discussion about affordable housing in the Portland area is evolving in important ways as new voices and new ideas emerge…

All of this is encouraging…But housing prices are rising again and various factors – from green-building requirements to system development charges, to prevailing wages to land values exert upward pressure.

Victor Merced  has looked at the affordable housing equation from a number of angles – as a senior program officer at Meyer Memorial Trust, director of housing and community services for Gov. Ted Kulongoski and now as executive director of Hacienda Community Development Corp. He’s convinced that lowering the base cost has to be part of the conversation. A partial list of ideas: build more modular homes; loosen green-building requirements for affordable housing; release projects from the prevailing wage…

Our Response & Your Comments

To their credit, The Oregonian’s editors echo a constant complaint about government: That it causes the very problems that it then taxes us to solve. We could point to the housing crisis, the proliferation of guns, and the increase in the uninsured thanks to Obamacare.

The problem: government too often insists on achieving diametrically opposed goals.

Some government agencies want more “affordable” housing. Others want more green energy. But demands for green fuel raise the cost of housing. Some want limited development. That also drives up the cost of houses. Ditto for “living wages” (whatever that means).

Achieving a balance between opposed goals means that some agencies will have to give up  money and staffing – the mother’s milk of government – to other agencies. Bureaucrats don’t like that.

And the temptation is for government to take the easy way out and say, “OK, let’s make everybody happy by giving both sides more. We’ll just raise taxes.” And the beat goes on – and on.

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