Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Affordable Housing Con Game Takes Another Step

Today's front page of the Oregonian had some dramatic and somewhat silly pictures of tram construction, but it was a less obvious article that caught my eye. It was a story about scaling back affordable housing as part of the South Waterfront deal, so for those bloggers who had 8-12-06 in the pool, you win. You know the pool - the contest to pick a date on when they'd start floating news stories of the next "correction" in the plan. I just wish the City Council would spare us the phony anguish and remorse - the part where nobody could have imagined this might happen. Let me just save you the time: Many of us knew this was coming and we also know that the con you've run on the city of Portland depended on misrepresenting the truth. Perhaps you have achieved that ultimate political device: The ability to lie to yourself, but I'm not buying it. I suspect a jury would say this was a set-up from day 1 and a clear case of fraud. This time - unlike the tram - the idea that no one was minding the store is going to be a lot harder to sell. Everyone sure acted like they poured over these numbers, so to try and express surprise that they don't add up, is false incompetence. I don't believe it would stand up in court. Let me just review the mechanics of the con job that Portland is witnessing and will be paying for over the next half century: The City Council makes a sweetheart deal - one of their business partnerships - that benefits the rich people of Portland and rich people who are yet to move here. You attach some tear-jerking sentimental jive about affordable housing, and make a bunch of noise about how sincere you are about helping the little people, then you do a mid-course correction that keeps all the things that benefit the rich people, and start scraping the other plans off your shoe. Meanwhile the taxpayers of Portland end up funding the project at a cost of something like 700 million dollars - including a de facto transferral of tax revenue into the pockets of developers. It would be one thing if the condo market needed a nudge, but this condo market is red hot, and yet the City Council is concentrating our money on expanding the profit margins of those involved. Then of course, the stuff that doesn't make big bucks for the developers - the stuff that was used to help sell the deal - is later jettisoned from the picture. It's a plan that counts on voter ignorance, just as the talk of transparency in government counts on a lack of transparency in government. Anyone who dissents is accused of hating Portland and the con game proceeds. The City Council relies on a lag between when they act and when they "realize" what they did cannot work. It is this lag that they need to maintain their innocence. As each new version of this scam unfolds the same way right before our eyes, that lag of innocence fades into a joke. More and more it begins to look like something a jury would see right through.

Affordable housing on waterfront is debated


At 5:21 PM, Blogger Strayer said...

Us po'r folk know already we don't count, that we're bugs squished on the bottom of society's shoes. We don't buy enough shit to count. We know that. Sure, it hurts. But that's the way it is.

Instead, we set our sights on Heaven. And, if Heaven don't exist, even though people, especially rich people, say it does, when they're patting us on the heads and tell us to pray so we'll no longer be morally depraved poor people, then I guess we're screwed again.

Ain't that just the way it goes?

At 8:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The proper name for Affordable Housing is Landlord Subsidy.

If all manner of financial gimmick were to go away then the prices for housing would go down, ergo, achieving greater affordablity for folks that have not already jumped on the asset-inflation-train.

"City Commissioner Sam Adams, who voted for the study, said the city needs to make up for declining federal support of affordable housing development."

Meaning we must act like the SNL version of Arnold and pump up the muscles, or the price level of homes . . . to achieve unaffordability. The mismatch in the market between wages and the cost of housing is something that one must tolerate, I suppose, in order to have a higher tax base upon which to issue even more bonds to fulfill every wishful wistful urge to spend (or is that to knowingly transfer bennies to buddies).

The Feds have already discovered a fine way to transfer to the state the role of shoveling tax dollars (non-federal-tax dollars) into Wall Street, via Pension Obligation Bonds. The scheme to lure local idiots into the role of pumping up their own home prices is left as a demonstration of sheer idiocy.

Give us official Sten dollars, as I have said before, that is let the feds also yield control of the money supply, then we might have at least as much freedom as a lowly Latin American country to try to play like an economist. This would be an indispensable feature of the proposed economic development plan to pump up home prices.


At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here is a flash . . . you know . . . a flash of insight (or psychosis from some people's perspective).

On the goal of providing affordable housing to folks who's incomes do not enable them to obtain a home at an artificially propped up price. Think of the buyer or owner being able to pay off the full price of a home at their current wage in a ten year period of time, wholly setting aside the issue of resale price at the conclusion of ten years.

Today there is public policy that allows people to take time off from work to sit on a jury. The employer cannot take disciplinary action, or fire someone, for performing this duty.

Suppose that we offer a similar sort of employer sanction for employees that wish to volunteer their time to help build a house for someone. Think of it as a classic old community barn raising event. Someone could be provided statutory or city code cover to take unpaid time off of up to perhaps 20 work days in a given 12 month period to participate.

If you were a minimum wage laborer that was shacking up on a buddy's couch and wanted to donate 20 days of voluntary service . . . to whom would you dedicate your efforts? Would you do it for a landlord on condition that they might offer still-unaffordable rent for a period of ten years or would you do it for some poor (some other minimum wage slave) family guy/gal to once and for all tell the landlord-class to stick it, forever?


At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, I'm curious - what can we do to prevent this sort of thing from happening, given the strong connections between a relatively small number of developers/institutions and the politicos who accept money and other benefits from them? Should we further limit the amount of money elected officials can accept from any particular source? Riot in the streets?

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bill, I'm curious - what can we do to prevent this sort of thing from happening"

Quit electing Sten and the rest.

Lister would have provided some sanity and real oversight.

But he was lambasted for being conservative.

In short, and reality there is nothing you can do.

Because the local left doesn't care what their electeds do once they get elected.

At 6:53 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

What can we do? Well, at least keep pointing it out, but if these patterns are as bad as I've read, we won't have to go searching to try and find a way past them. These problems are going to come hunting for us. Eventually we'll be forced to respond.

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