Chariho School Parents’ Forum

May 8, 2009

Systemic conflicts

Filed under: Hopkinton,housing — Editor @ 10:44 pm

In case you missed this in the Sun and Times (or variation of)

“Right hand, meet left hand. Can’t we all get along?”

In November, Hopkinton voters will be asked to approve a bond for $2 million to place private parcels of land on “Open Space” classification which restricts development and reduces or eliminates property tax revenues collected from those parcels. The rationale is to restrict development in order to prevent houses that attract families with children who attend public school. The cost of one student far exceeds the average property tax collected. Currently, 49% of Hopkinton’s land is under either a permanent or temporary Open Space restriction, which means the other 51% have to pick up the slack.
 
Putting aside the question of whether or not this is a good strategy, if we also use tax dollars to fight this plan I think we can all acknowledge it is a poorly coordinated strategy.
 
Also recently approved was the Community Development Block Grant which included $98,000 of tax dollars to be paid to a private entity so they can build “affordable housing.” I was quoted as saying, “What is the driving market force here?” Mr. Spinella, of affordable housing firm FJS Associates Ltd, told the Council that there was “incredible need” for affordable housing.
 
This “need” is based on a figure, 10% of the total housing, that the government determined appropriate, not on an actual need as determined by the consumer. A house only qualifies as “affordable” if the property owner agrees to let the government determine what the property will sell for in the future. Furthermore, the government places other restrictions on which properties qualify as “affordable housing” and these restrictions have nothing to do with the price. As an example, mobile homes do not qualify, but are certainly affordable, and homes that have owners who choose not to take government subsidies (maybe they own the house outright or just don’t like taking other people’s tax dollars) also do not qualify, regardless of how inexpensive they are.
 
The anemic housing market, which we are “stimulating” with tax dollars, has plenty of empty affordable houses. The owners just aren’t desperate enough to sign over some of their rights to the government. But the real issue here is that it is counter productive to use tax dollars to hinder the housing market and then spend tax dollars again to “stimulate” that same market. We should just step out of the way and let the market do what it does best – fill needs, not agendas.