Saturday, April 5, 2008

Good book alert

The book I am currently reading is fantastic. I certainly don’t agree with everything in it, but the book is nevertheless very thought provoking. I have not yet finished it, but already I highly recommend it. Some of the points made seem as if they were speaking about Howard County directly. For instance, this bit about housing prices:

Ironically, having created artificially high housing prices, government then often supplies token amounts of “affordable housing” to selected individuals or groups. Such selective generosity may be subsidized by taxpayers or by making it mandatory that private builders sell a certain percentage of their housing at prices “below market”, as a precondition for approving building permits. These “below market” prices may nevertheless higher than housing prices would be in the absence of building restrictions. Moreover, where the prices represent losses to the builders, these losses are made up by raising the prices of their other housing even higher. But such well-publicized programs perpetuate the belief that government intervention is the key to creating “affordable housing”, when in fact such intervention has often been a key factor in making housing unaffordable.

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Although it is nice to have the value of your home protected or inflated by zoning laws and to have mandated amenities such as "open space", these things are not without significant costs. And these costs exclude the least well off among us.