Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Problem Or Opportunity? Redux.

Today The News & Record is reporting on how Mayor Nancy Barakat Vaughan and Councilwoman Sharon Hightower are bemoaning the lack of affordable housing in Greensboro as if it were something that just happened over night. - Problem Or Opportunity?, Billy Jones 02/02/2015

One has to consider that the lack of lower income housing, the supply thereof, may very well be a product of politico action over time. Beyond urban renewal and greenways destroying lower income housing and driving the poor out, politically driven zoning may well be in the mix too.

Collective action zoning aka public zoning, regardless of any attributes proponents assign, is used by special interests/pressure groups, through politicos, as an item that protects the incumbent. That is, incumbent property owners (current owners) push for zoning that excludes classes, drives up prices through regulation and limits supply in order to protect or increase the value of the incumbent’s property. The quintessential example is Palo Alto, California. (1)

The example of very small homes (Tiny House) with vegetable gardens that can house lower income individuals as well as the elderly (secondary use) and allows for property use to foster start-up innovation and/or entrepreneurship is excluded under Greensboro zoning due to home size. The foster start-up innovation and/or entrepreneurship aspect on the same property is likely restricted too. (2) (3)

One must consider how home size became a zoning item in the first place. Would minimum home size, the zoning thereof, be an emergent order item clamored for by the many, or does its appearance in the zoning regulations come from the few i.e. special interests/pressure groups, through politicos?

Going back to Palo Alto where they have managed to drive home prices up, through zoning, to the point where the poor are totally excluded, Texas is the exact opposite. That is, Texas is the home of some of the most affordable housing in the nation. By-the-way, Texas, in the aggregate, has the fewest zoning laws in the nation. Go figure. (4) (5)

One item rarely mentioned regarding zoning is public vs. private zoning. Private subdivisions that have private covenants and restrictions (private zoning) exist for those James and Jane Goodfellow(s) that voluntarily decide to live in a privately zoned subdivision. That is, James and Jane voluntarily decide to live under private zoning. Therefore, if an individual wants zoning and believes zoning is good for his/her property value or for other reasons, such privately zoned property is available (supply has been brought to market). Conversely, public zoning is coercive and James and Jane Goodfellow are forced to live under zoning legislation even if they care not to.

In the end, the lack of affordable housing, the political hand wringing thereof, may well be a problem created by the same politico ilk. Mirrors must be straight out with this gang.



(1) "Diversity" for thee, not me, Thomas Sowell, Jewish World Review, 03/06/2003

(2) Problem Or Opportunity?, Billy Jones 02/02/2015

(3) Tiny House


(4) California vs. Texas in one chart, Mark Perry, California Policy Center, 05/20/2014

(5) Lack of zoning has paid off for Houston, Houston Chronicle, 05/28/2008