Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Affordable Housing is a Right, Not a Choice

MARIN'S HOUSING CRISIS

Affordable units needed

Your Dec. 19 article discussed the Association of Bay Area Governments' (ABAG) housing needs allocation process and requirements for Bay Area cities and counties. There is a bigger need in Marin County than housing, and that is affordable housing.

As one of the largest transitional housing programs in Marin, the Marin Continuum of Housing and Services struggles daily with the problem that individuals and families leave transitional housing after 24 months without being able to find housing where they have lived and worked.

Almost all of the housing stock in Marin is out of reach of the people who work here. Those who were fortunate to have bought their homes long ago would not be able to afford their own homes today. Marin is not planning for housing for those who need it, our nurses and teachers, our retail employees, our parents as they grow older, our young people, and people with special needs.

People who are low- and very low-income are forced to live outside the county, double up in small single-family housing, or remain homeless. We need better options.

Housing affordability is not a choice - it is a right. Marin County must ensure that those who work and wish to reside in this county are able to do so.

ABAG oversees regional housing and growth demands on behalf of the state. In Marin, we need a unified local governing body to coordinate these issues among the cities and county, including ensuring the production of affordable housing.

Andrea Bizzell, executive director,

Marin Continuum of Housing and Services, Novato

This letter was found in the Marin IJ of all places.

The problem with affordable housing projects as they currently stand is that no one wants to be labeled a second class citizen which is exactly what typical affordable housing units are like (second only to renting of course). And given your typical Marin resident’s obsession with status and appearance, such discrimination is pronounced.

These days I am of the mind that the best solution is for housing prices to crash, plain and simple; the faster it happens the better; we'd be better off in the end. Those who bought their house to live in shouldn’t care; those who bought what they could afford shouldn’t care; the only ones who should care are the people (the majority?) who are speculating in one form or another. Get the pain out of the way early, then start afresh. Then, no more regarding houses as investments, as ATMs, as retirement funds. And wouldn’t it be great if it was mandatory for people to pay 20% of the sale price as a down payment? And wouldn’t it be great if we made paying off a mortgage a desired outcome? Like maybe if you pay off the loan then no more property tax. (And why do we even pay a tax on our houses year after year? We don't for anything else. Why not just have a one-time sales tax (like everything else), and assess a broad-based tax on all residents (owners and "squatters" alike) to pay for all the things that property tax currently pays for?) In fact, wouldn’t it be great if there were no home loans at all? Then houses would be priced based on what people can really afford? I guess what I am saying is to return to the good old American style of capitalism -- a free market model for housing without all the mucking around by local, state, and federal governments.

Radical and not going to happen, I know. Just dreaming. It is the new year and time for making wishes.

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