Monday, July 7, 2014

More Freedom, not More Government, Will Solve New Jersey's "Housing Crisis"

After more than four decades of affordable housing policies, New Jersey has an “affordable housing crisis.” And it’s apparently worse than ever.

So, Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, has some solutions; raise taxes, discriminatorily levied “on those New Jerseyans who can most afford it” (the rich); more state “investments” (spending) in new and rehabilitated housing; an “overall housing plan or strategy” (a central planning bureaucracy)—typical statist “solutions” of the kind that have evaded the fundamental causes of the crisis.

Happily, Berger does point to a big part of the problem. “If we had inclusionary zoning rules,” she offers, “all new market developments would dedicate some homes as affordable.” As I have argued, zoning is a huge impediment restricting the housing market. We don’t need more “inclusionary” zoning. This approach already failed. We need to recognize that government’s zoning powers, as such, are rights-violating and immoral—and need to be eliminated

I left these comments:

Why doesn’t the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ raise money voluntarily—maybe even ask the politicians they’re lobbying to put up their own money—and build and market the housing they claim is so desperately needed?

Maybe that’s just too hard. Perhaps they do not want to deal with local zoning and planning boards standing in their way; or onerously expensive environmental and other regulations eating up their capital—or stopping them outright; or maybe find that that piece of land perfectly suited for low-cost housing has a sign declaring “Another 25 Acres Saved from Development”—courtesy of the taxpayers; or who knows what other political impediments to low-cost housing NJ has.

In the 1980s in my home town of Readington, a developer bought 500+ acres in my vicinity of the township. The developer proposed building a multi-tiered development of 2200 homes ranging in price from starter homes to “McMansions,” and complete with a school, office, and retail space. When the developer sought the appropriate variances and approvals, the township central planners fought it all the way. After a number of years, the developer gave up the fight. The 500 acres is now off-limits to development, banked in the taxpayer-funded farmland preservation program.

We should address the fundamental political causes of the “affordable housing crisis” in NJ. If developers were free to contract with landowners; free to build as their market judgment dictates; free to contract with housing consumers without interference from any level of government except where necessary to protect the individual rights of adjacent property owners, the demand for housing at all economic levels would be met.

It’s wrong to forcibly seize taxpayer money for politicians and special interests to “invest” in subsidized housing. Nor should special interest housing schemes be forced on everyone else through some centrally planned “overall housing plan or strategy.” The government should certainly not be deciding “where homes should not be developed.” Neither should it be “encouraging appropriate housing in appropriate locations.” What’s “appropriate” is up to free individuals to decide for themselves through voluntary, mutually beneficial contractual arrangements. The government’s job is to equally protect the rights of all to act on their own rational judgment with their own money, not micromanage the market and redistribute wealth. It should stop being the problem.

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