Here is the headline in today's Centre Daily Times, "Rules may raise housing prices." The subheading state's, "County looks at easing ordinances to create more affordable dwellings."
I have blogged on at the mouth about my perspective relating to Affordable Housing in the Centre Region. The speech police want us to call it "work force housing" and I will bring that to the attention of Anne Danahy before the rath of the work force housing god's descend upon her and threaten to move her into a palatial Centre region abode.
The government wants to come up with a game plan to adjust, tweak, reduce or eliminate any number of encumberances on affordable housing. What are the reigns holding back Affordable Housing (Work Force housing) in the Centre region? According to the experts they may include regulations such as zoning, land development, park land and street standards. Maybe we should mandate a wind farm in each AH development to help reduce electric bills (oops, I forgot, we all love that stuff just not in the Centre Region or in our backyard--I'm sure we can arrange some carbon offsets to make us all feel better). I didn't notice they were mandating a Starbucks in every new affordable housing development but what is a worker to do without one down the street from his/her house? The answer in some people's eyes is to ship off taxpayer dollars ($35,000 of them to be exact) to their friends that live somewhere else, maybe even in another state, to study the dilemma for twenty-four months.
Again, I know I am a simple minded country boy that resides in the hillbilly country of Penns Valley, but allow me to offer a better solution for the $35,000. Let's create a vehicle whereby those in need can meet with and discuss their options with those of us that actual place people in affordable housing every day as a vocation. We are Realtors in the local community and some of us don't limit our practice to those professionals with a minimum income of $200,000 per year. I know of a Realtor in our town that won't even talk to a buyer unless they are willing to spend a minimum of $200,000 on a home.
I have placed buyers in homes as low as $14,500 and currently I have three properties that can be purchased for under $130,000. If we use the USDA rural housing guide that tells us that low income (they didn't get the memo from the speech police either because that is what they call the loans) mortgages can be used on a property priced at $179,900 or less, there are currently as of December 5, 2007, 121 homes that meet this guideline. That represents 26% of all the homes currently for sale in the State College, Penns valley, Bald Eagle, and Bellefonte school districts meet the low income (there it is again) guidelines as set forth by USDA. Not all of the homes will qualify because they won't make loans in several of the elite neighborhoods of the Centre Region, however, almost one in four houses currently for sale would work for those considered Work Force (I'm getting it) housing.
Now the dirty little secret. Not all of the homes are across the street from University Park. You can't walk to the mall or Wegmans from most of the houses. And this is where the esteemed leadership comes in. Another simple minded idea from that hick Realtor in Penns Valley. Let's ask our government to provide for mass transportation to some of the areas where the housing is available but the commute is a burden. Maybe they could work on infrastructure improvements in some of those areas so the $10,000 septic tanks and the soon to be imposed septic tank taxes and inspection wouldn't burden the homeowners. More public water would help alleviate the $4,000 water well costs associated with building homes in those areas. Just a couple ideas. I have many more but we will save them for another day.
One final comment before we revisit the CDT headline. One of those organizations mentioned in a recent CDT article that is so interested in assisting people with "work force housing" has enacted some of the most ridiculous regulations on those same people when they want to take advantage of the grant money. They actual increase the costs to the buyer for using the money but I don't want to point fingers at anyone in particular. I've had two clients use this money this year and those stories will be re-capped in another post.
So, back to the headline. The county wants to ease ordinances to create more affordable housing. Haven't the cumulative effect of a hundred years worth of ordinances helped to get us into this situation? I want to attend the meeting when the elected officials explain to their campaign contributors exactly why the ordinances won't apply to them. Now that will be a fun blog post to write about.