The “Affordable Housing” Crisis

Last week, the Chronicle unleashed two more screeds on the city’s alleged “affordable housing” crisis. The latest target has been the Inner Loop, where rising demand has elevated housing prices. First, the paper informed us that rising housing prices mean that many downtown workers must commute. Then, the paper reported on a new study that places Houston eleventh on the “New Urban Crisis Index.”

The paper wants us to believe that workers have some kind of right to live near their place of employment. And since lower-income workers can’t afford the rising housing prices, somebody should do something. That somebody is the government.

Not surprisingly, neither article explains the source of this alleged right. Instead, we are given examples of the hardships low-income workers must endure. The workers have an unfulfilled need, and that is the only explanation that is required. And according to altruism–the moral premise that underlies the “affordable housing” movement–taxpayers have an obligation to meet that need.

Interestingly, the paper acknowledges that government intervention has proven to be a barrier to growth, writing that Houston’s

relatively hands-off approach to development has been seen as a plus for affordability, and there’s some truth to that view. Conservatives and liberal economists alike think building restrictions are a big barrier to growth; former president Barack Obama’s administration asked for $300 million to help cities relax their zoning codes.

As long as the market responded in a way that the Chronicle liked, everything was fine. But when the market responds differently than the paper deems ideal, we are told that the market has failed and government must intervene.

Further, the paper would like us to forget that just a month ago it reported that “affordable homes help Houston attract millennials.” While lauding the city’s housing affordability, the Chronicle simultaneously wants us to believe that we have a housing affordability crisis. You might be tempted to dismiss this as another of the paper’s seemingly endless contradictions. But from the perspective of the altruists, there is no contradiction.

To the altruists, low-income Houstonians can’t afford to live where they want. They are stuck in high crime neighborhoods with substandard schools. According to the altruists, we have a moral responsibility to provide them with housing in “high opportunity” neighborhoods. To the altruists, the affordable housing crisis pertains to those in need–those who have a need to live in better neighborhoods.

The Chronicle’s recent campaign for “affordable housing” is only one part of a multi-pronged attack. The paper has also been attacking the city’s income inequality and economic segregation. Indeed, the “New Urban Crisis Index” combines housing affordability, wage inequality, and economic segregation in its analysis.

The goal of the “affordable housing” movement goes beyond housing. Its goal is to equalize income. Despite its platitudes about “social justice,” the movement advocates a gross injustice–taking from those who have earned their wealth and giving it to others on the basis of need.

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