Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Naysayer of the Month by Phil Goodstein - September, 2013

The Bill Clinton presidency endeavored to apply the principles of Milton Friedman to a ravaging capitalism. Besides openly encouraging mass Wall Street speculation and the transformation of schools into entrepreneurial enterprises, Clinton and associates sought to destroy traditional governmental efforts to provide low-income housing. No longer did it mean clean, safe rental units. Rather, housing projects became veritable condo complexes where the government encouraged aspiring members of the middle class to pour all their assets into home ownership. In the process, the administration, through its Hope VI program, avidly worked to reduce the number of public housing units available to those who could not afford to buy. Those renting in the housing projects, in turn, were expected to emulate the values of yuppie America.
Denver embraced the effort. A key achievement of the Welling-ton Webb administration was to oversee soaring rental rates. The mayor topped this off in 2002 when he signed the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance. Instead of controlling rents and checking on out-of-scale development, it simply mandated that developers had to add a few “affordable” units to mega-projects, condos which were actually quite high in price compared to the median cost of residences. Those not wishing to participate could easily opt out of the program by paying minimal additional fees. In contrast, developers who included such “affordable” units received special breaks and even cash compensation. The measure did nothing to assure that real affordable rental housing existed. On the contrary, since its passage, homelessness has been an ever more endemic part of the city.
Recently, Mayor Michael Hancock observed that a grand total of 15 “affordable” units have been added to the city’s housing stock over the past four years despite a new building frenzy. Seeing this, he conceded that the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance has been a failure. Rather, however, than probing its thoroughly rotten core, he and members of city council have simply vowed to tinker with the scheme. For so showing their inability to see anything more than the most insignificant of minutia, Hancock and his fellow reformers are the Naysayer of the Month.


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