Let’s have an objective conversation on housing policy. Affordable housing is a universal truism which has been politicized that any legitimate criticism and/or nuanced understanding will signal that you are anti-housing, anti-renter, pro-developer, and/or even racist. I have been a renter for my entire life, I have lived in Frogtown, the Midway, and the North End. Being trained as an economist from UC Berkeley, and a prior economic instructor, I take a comprehensive approach to stabilize the housing markets benefiting the most citizens. There is strong consensus among economists against most affordable housing initiatives and rent control measures as these measures often worsen the housing market. The underlying reason is that economists weigh short-term benefits and long-term costs in the same scale, while most people do not, I’ll explain more later. In general, citizens should be aware of the following:
- Saint Paul taxpayers will be paying nearly $500 million dollars in subsidies for the TIF district for affordable housing for the next 25 years. The increased taxes will increase the housing and rental market rate potentially pricing out some citizens. We are sacrificing our future for the present. You can read my tax policies here. In addition, the policy stratifies the social economic class, where the middle class is pushed out, and low-income residents cannot afford to own property, and would need to move out of the city. I am open to using TIF when it is appropriate
- Strict rent control/stabilization measures will restrict/limit housing supply, worsening the local housing crisis. You can read my viewpoint on the rent stabilization bill here.
My approach is to increase housing supply and address specific market failures such as exploitation of renters by slumlords, and reducing equity home ownership gaps. My proposals are as follows
- Expand zoning ordinances to allow additional units to be built.
- Expand zoning ordinances to allow ADUs [accessory development units]
- Encourage development of mixed commercial and residential buildings
- Encourage market-rate new developments with limited/no subsidies
For addressing housing equity, my general goals is to target the slumlords, charge property owners that exploit the market, and increase the number of owner occupied households
- Make a requirement that properties must include their average heating, gas, and electricity cost in rental price. For slum properties, the “true rent” will be much higher, and if they want to get renters, they need to renovate the property. Likewise, the renters are protected from the hidden utility costs, so they can budget.
- If a rental property is being sold to the market displacing renters, the renters have first opportunity to buy the property and/or receive down payment assistance
- If property own multiple residential properties* in Saint Paul, an increasing fee for each additional property
- Vacant properties are charged additional fees based on vacancy time
- Residential properties need to meet up to code
- Down Payment assistance for first time homeowners
Why are “progressive” cities with renter protections so expensive?
Most people don’t think like economists, they value the short-term benefit over the long term costs [also applies to climate change]. The reason for this is that people can measure the short-term benefit and the long-term costs are intangible in the future. The politicians elected reflect this sentiment. Their housing policies may produce short-term benefits to a subset of residents but have long-term costs with increase in housing market rate and increase in property taxes, which they place responsibility for various economic indicators. For this reason, they will continue to implement such programs even though they are making the overall housing market more expensive. This is financially unsustainable, and the city will become bankrupt when residents move out from the the city.