"And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day
For a little house--a house of my own--
Out of the wind's and the rain's way."

         An Old Woman of the Roads, st. 6
Padraic Colum (1881-1972)

30 THOUGHTS ON "AFFORDABLE HOUSING": WHAT IF...

  1. ...we threw out "the 30% Rule" which requires that a low-income family seeking to buy a house with a subsidized mortgage can use only 30% of its income for monthly housing expense ("PITI") when that family may already be spending twice that amount for rent?

  2. ...the more than $50,000,000.00 used to pay for "rent vouchers" paid to the landlords of the more than 15,000 Section 8 units in Miami-Dade County was instead used to provide "Soft 2nd" mortgages to allow the working poor to be able to afford to buy homes?

  3. ...all Section 8 Single Family Home rental vouchers were structured so as to set aside $50 per month for the next 10 years to allow the family renting the home to use the set-aside as a deposit to eventually purchase it instead?

  4. ...there were no more "dead-end" jobs because a husband and wife each working fulltime for minimum wage at a fast-food restaurant could then together afford to buy a $90,000 3BR/2BA house instead of being told they earn too little?

  5. ...good programs such as the "HOME" 2d mortgage program didn't tell one family that their mortgage payment would be $550 per month and another family, buying an identical home, that their payment would be $650 per month because the wage earner was working two jobs instead of one?

  6. ...building and zoning departments realized that "time is money" and put construction of new houses in infill target areas, where the reward is lower and the risk greater, to the front of the permitting process?

  7. ...impact fees and permit fees were on a percentage basis so that a house costing $80,000 didn't have to pay $10,000 in such fees while a house costing $800,000 pays $20,000?

  8. ...impact fees were waived altogether in our oldest "target" communities where everyone seems to agree we need to spur redevelopment?

  9. ...we "followed the money" for each program like Section 8 supposedly implemented to help the working poor afford homes to live in and see whether it's the families themselves that get the benefit of the taxpayers' dollars, or whether it's the landlords and the administrators of the programs who get the bulk of it?

  10. ...inadequate water and sewer lines in our older infill target neighborhoods were acknowledged to be a county-wide obligation to fix rather than as the individual burden of the developer adventurous enough to try to build there?

  11. ...major roads going through the heart of poorer communities were looked upon as opportunities for landscaping and "traffic calming" rather than as speedways for commuters passing through?

  12. ...in neighborhoods trying to rebuild their community pride as well as their housing stock, drug buyers had their names and faces publicized just like the sellers they buy from?

  13. ...appraisers were required to utilize the "replacement value" of new homes constructed in an infill target area than "comparable sales" until a reasonable number of new homes have been constructed in that area?

  14. ...permits for "model" home designs were required to go through zoning/public works/electrical/plumbing/mechanical/structural just once, and thereafter only had to go through zoning and public works unless the building code changed?

  15. ..."municipal revenue generators" such as Miami's new "Construction Debris Removal Fee" and "Fire Fee" were not imposed at all in infill target areas rather than just for each new "affordable house" that manages to qualify for the reimbursement?

  16. ...all government permit and impact and utility connection fees now collected "up front" from developers in infill target neighborhoods (which can amount to more than 20% of the cost of an $80,000 house and are generally not financable by small builders on scattered sites) were collected at the time the house is sold to a qualifying low income buyer?

  17. ...all elected officials were required to begin every discussion of "affordable housing" by reciting: "Affordable housing can be one of two things or both--shelter and wealth builder. Let's try to do both."?

  18. ...elected officials recognized that most of the worthwhile development opportunities in older infill target neighborhoods involve building on "scattered sites" in existing single family residential neighborhoods which already have more than their share of multi-family apartment projects?

  19. ...everyone involved with constructing affordable housing realized that low income families also want and need windows, closets, storage space, and landscaping?

  20. ...everyone realized that it's not the "sticker price" of a new house, but the amount of the PITI (principal, interest, taxes & insurance) monthly payment on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage that primarily determines whether it's affordable?

  21. ...the Federal government passed a new "GI Bill" to create homeownership, except that this time the "eligible" recipients would be the working poor?

  22. ...there were a complete ban on building any more apartment buildings in target areas until every single one there now is either completely fixed up or demolished?

  23. ...everyone realized that homeownership (as opposed to renting) is a "magic wand" to help poor families and poor neighborhoods, but only if the houses built there are good enough from the start to have a chance to appreciate in value over time?

  24. ...we gave to sponsors of "shoebox" units to be built at "ground zero" in the worst blocks of the most devastated poor communities the job of explaining to low income first-time homebuyers the difference between "rent" and "monthly mortgage payment" when the house is either too small, too badly located, or too poorly equipped ever to go up in value?

  25. ...government enforced existing laws regarding "hatracking" of trees, illegal dumping, abandoned vehicles, and illegal structures as strictly in poor neighborhoods, where Homeowner Associations are either weak or non-existent, as they do in wealthy neighborhoods where any of the above draw instant attention?

  26. ...somewhere, anywhere in the entire state of Florida, there existed a predominantly African-American community, including both residential and commercial components, with real estate values comparable to other successful areas that all of us could point to and say: "See--it is possible!" ?

  27. ...each of us realized that our own view of "the economic value of owning real estate" would be severely distorted and damaged if we lived in a community for decades and never saw our real estate (or any of our neighbors') appreciate in value?

  28. ...with due respect to the valiant efforts of underfunded Community Development Corporations, we all agreed that the only engine big enough to rebuild our inner cities nationwide is private, for-profit enterprise?

  29. ...we all decided to dance again with the partner that brought us most of the wealth and strength we enjoy in this country--the single family home?

  30. ...we all unequivocally made up our minds to do better in finding ways to help our fellow working or willing-to-work citizens achieve the American Dream of owning their own homes?

Respectfully submitted for your thoughtful consideration and not
necessarily agreement,

Anthony R. Parrish, Jr. President


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