The Great “Affordable Housing” Lie / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris

whatcom hawk19 hrs  November 17, 2015  Wendy Harris

I am asking anyone buying into the “affordable housing” lie, i.e, the belief that if we only build more housing, create more infill, become bigger and denser, that housing will become cheaper, to send me proof, in the form of studies that show building more makes things cheaper.

Because so far, everyone, from the mayor, the council, the neighborhoods, and residents, seem to buy into this myth.. and who do you think promotes and pushed this myth? Of course it is being sold to us by the development lobby. How about some critical thinking and analysis before we blindly accept what we all hope to be true.

Here is what I understand to be true. When a town is young and small, there is truth to the fact that more growth makes things more affordable because of shared costs for infrastructure. But at a certain point, more growth creates greater costs for everyone and results in existing residents subsidizing new residents. New residents require more social programs, place greater wear and tear on capital facilities, require more infrastructure be built, etc. If you want proof of this fact, just look at all the major cities and the housing costs in these areas. Rarely are they bargains, and the nicer the city, the more the housing costs rise.

And there is something else that people are not considering… it is not only about demand. It is also about supply and quess what? We have a very limited supply of buildable land in Bellingham (once you factor in critical area constraints) so the more land that is developed, the less land supply that remains. Explain to me how that is a driver for lower housing costs? Finally, urban density does not discourage rural growth, or at least that is what the Bellingham Long Term Planner, Gregg Aucutt, asserted to the city council when he referred to this as a “failed plan.”

Face the cold hard facts folks… we are not going to have more affordable housing and if we do, it will be because of some awful recession where everyone is out of work and no one will be able to afford the homes that they already have.

Isn’t it time to at least consider embracing a new reality… one that is not tied into growth? Stop unquestioningly repeating the propaganda. No one is going to come here if we have low housing stock at unaffordable prices, and no decent jobs. Nor will be required to grow under the GMA if we can show that this can not be done and protect against no net loss of ecological functions. There there is the matter of development within the blast zone for exploding oil trains.

Stop making developers wealthy and focus on keeping our residents and our ecosystems healthy and safe, and resilient against future impacts.

Read Wendy’s post on the Whatcom Hawk Facebook page here.

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