Choice and Affordability

For months, Regressives, including Mayor Turner and the Chronicle, have been on the affordable housing bandwagon. They have been telling us that Houston lacks affordable housing. But just last Friday, the Chronicle reported that “Affordable homes help Houston attract millennials.” Interestingly, both of these claims are true, but for reasons that Regressives won’t acknowledge.

To understand this, it would be good to define affordable housing. The Department of Housing and Urban development defines it as:

In general, housing for which the occupant(s) is/are paying no more than 30 percent of his or her income for gross housing costs, including utilities.

This simply means that housing that costs more than $1,500 a month isn’t affordable for someone making $50,000 a year. And housing that costs $15,000 a month isn’t affordable for someone making $500,000 a year. So? For most Houstonians, lots of things aren’t affordable.

More significantly, affordability is a matter of choice. Some individuals choose to pay more than 30 percent for housing and do without other things, such as a new automobile or vacations. Each of us can choose to spend more than we can afford on some things but less on others.

The affordable housing movement wants us to ignore the role that choice—volition—plays in an individual’s life, including where he lives. An individual’s choices impact his education, his job skills, his earning ability, and what housing is affordable. An individual’s choices determine whether he becomes a gang-banger or a productive employee or entrepreneur. An individual’s choices determine whether he languishes in poverty or continually improves himself and his earning ability.

Low-income families can’t afford to live in nice neighborhoods, and that is the only fact that affordable housing advocates want us to consider. The reasons—the choices that those individuals have made—are considered irrelevant.

They want us to ignore volition because they don’t want us to hold individuals responsible. If we don’t have a choice in our actions, then the consequences aren’t our responsibility. This applies not only to the lazy and degenerate, but also to the ambitious and productive. If our actions are not of our own choosing, then we should be neither scorned nor applauded for the results. If we don’t possess volition, we deserve neither punishment nor rewards.

It is true that some Houstonians can’t find affordable housing. And it is also true that millenials are attracted to Houston by the city’s affordable housing. For each, what is affordable is a consequence of the choices that those individuals have made.

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