How Republicans and Democrats Differ When It Comes to the Poor
Ester Bloom

As a dyed in the wool Democrat who is more than mildly obsessed with affordable housing, I would like to put forward this from Bloomberg and this from NYT about how building more units by rolling back regulations provides that long term solution to affordable housing. I suspect this is the solution Republicans have yet to really verbalize. There was a housing shortage in Brooklyn and then everyone is up in arms about building taller buildings because it “blocks views.” I call BS on that. Let’s have a discussion about whether that block can support the extra people (schools, utilities, strain on public transit, etc.), but I’m all for taller buildings and smaller footprints. Essentially, if you increase the supply, eventually it will outstrip demand and the older housing stock becomes affordable. There’s evidence in Brooklyn that this is finally coming to pass.

The problems are both environmental (do we have enough water to support more people in this area in the cases of California and China), and short term (what happens to the family at the poverty line that has to move further away from jobs). Future technology may have the ability to improve these issues, but there is still the argument about the societal benefits to mixed income neighborhoods. For this I’d argue that ‘gentrification’ is something that no city handles well, but it does help redevelop parts of cities that are struggling. My old neighborhood in Crown Heights Brooklyn is safer now, with tons of small businesses opened by longtime residents as well as, you know, Starbucks. There’s good and bad, obviously, but it has the potential to create new opportunities for these communities as well.

On the other hand, relaxing regulations entirely may result in development in only the desirable areas and nowhere else (see discussion). The real question is what kind of policies would help people take advantage of more affluent people moving into the neighborhood? Small business loans? Tax breaks? I don’t have the answer, but some Democrat’s approach of trying to keep so many people in place simply isn’t working.

Last thing, promise. One thing ‘Folders talk about all the time is the benefit of smaller cheaper cities. My corner of the internet seems to account for a huge exodus from the bright lights, big city to the reasonably illuminating, agreeable commute of places like Atlanta, Austin, and Pittsburgh. In some ways the affordability crisis has fueled the economy in these smaller cities. Tech firms are outsourcing jobs to Arizona and elsewhere. That’s sort of how the market is supposed to work, isn’t it?

Basically both sides have points, and as with everything else it’s finding the right balance of regulation and market forces which requires two parties with ideas.


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