A War Story, Part 2

I previously wrote about my experience with the city regarding a four-plex I once owned. In light of the recent media hype about “affordable housing,” it is worth revisiting that experience. While the city allegedly seeks to promote more “affordable housing” for low income Houstonians, many of its policies do the exact opposite.

About a year after I purchased the property, the city informed me that I had to obtain an Occupancy Permit. Apparently, the fact that the property was fully occupied when I purchased it was irrelevant. I needed the city’s permission to continue operating the property.

The city conducted a cursory inspection and then demanded that I perform a number of upgrades to the property. The cost of the upgrades was almost 30 percent of the purchase price for the property. This meant that the rents would have to be increased significantly in order to recover the costs. The tenants would have been unable to afford the new rents. (I sold the property a short time later.)

On the one hand, the city regularly whines about a lack of “affordable housing.” On the other hand, they impose costs on landlords that drive up the cost of housing. And for low-income residents, those costs make housing much less affordable.

The tenants of the property had resided there for more than five years. Apparently, they were satisfied with the condition. But the city’s intervention will force them to pay substantially higher rents or find other housing. The only “winner” in the entire experience was the city’s inspection department.

If the city is serious about providing more housing options for low-income residents, it must stop harassing and impeding landlords and developers. It must stop imposing needless costs on the entrepreneurs who are trying to fill a need in the market. Until the city does that, all of its talk about increasing “affordable housing” is worse than pointless; it is hypocritical.

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