Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's an Oversimplification®

Nothing says January like football, some snow and a public relations/lobbying campaign by Washington REALTORS®. I saw a cable ad for them and boy is it slick. Nice web site. The Washington REALTORS® are deeply concerned about firefighters, teachers, police officers and nurses being able to afford houses. Presumably so they can sell them some.

From the "take action" section of the web site comes this nice sample letter you can send to your state legislators:
Dear [ Decision Maker ],

Our population is growing but the supply of homes isn't keeping up. Homebuyers have to drive too far to find an affordable home. That's caused long commutes, traffic jams and sprawl. And home prices have increased by 160 percent in some parts of Washington.

You know we've got a problem when even middle-income citizens, the backbone of our communities -- the firefighters, teachers, police officers and nurses -- can't afford to live in the communities they serve.

Unfortunately, poor government planning has limited the supply of homes near where people work. Too many people are frustrated by the lack of home choices, sky-rocketing home costs, and traffic congestion.

The primary cause is the failure to plan for enough homes to meet the demands of growth. Local government has not provided the infrastructure (roads, sewer, water) required for new homes, and has not planned for enough homes to keep up with job growth.
It's that darned bad government, not letting them build enough houses! Of course. Why, we'll simply jack up tax rates to pay for that infrastructure and, presto, problem solved. No?

Just to be sure I'm getting the message correctly, I checked the issues page:
The reason for the stunning price increases is simple: demand for middle-wage homes far outstrips supply. The shortage of homes that families can afford is pushing them out of our communities and onto the freeways. Teachers, firefighters, police officers and other middle-wage people should be able to live in the communities they serve.
I'm not sure if the Legislature itself actually builds affordable houses. What would be cool is if there is a group that, you know, represents people who build houses. Washington REALTORS® could ask them to please build more affordable houses, and then firefighters and teachers and police officers and nurses could buy them, and Washington REALTORS® could stop using their money to buy cable ads.

Here's a thought: over eleventy billion houses have been built in Clark County in the last fifteen years, yet the median home price continues to skyrocket. I'm not an economist, but maybe there are other factors besides simple supply and demand that affect housing costs? Maybe Washington REALTORS® could hire an economist and have her look into it, although it would be a shame to mess up such a nice web site with its gorgeous pictures of firefighting teaching nurses.

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