By Al Litman
Lets talk a little about housing. I’ve got mine and you probably have yours, whether it’s a single family home, a townhouse, condo, or apartment. But, what about your children or their children? It looks like we will have a generation living with their parents, when that’s the last thing they might want to do. We, as a local government, have been asked over and over what we are going to do about it.
There is no easy fix for the affordable housing crisis, unless, of course, we enter a prolonged recession and prices drop rapidly. However, with a recession, employment also drops and you are usually no better off.
The lack of adequate affordable housing has a host of negative effects on communities. Housing cost-burdened families experience greater stress relating to food security, health care, retirement, transportation and overall social stability. It’s more than a double whammy. Just about everything is going up in cost with no sign of relief in sight.
So, what causes a shortage of affordable housing in the first place? Local land-use regulations and cost are key factors. In too many communities, including ours, local zoning and related laws such as density restrictions make it hard or impossible to navigate the local landscape and deliver the density needed to make an affordable apartment project work.
Some of this is intentional and driven by NIMBYism, but some of this shortage is incidental, resulting from arcane land use regulations and a Master Plan that may need major revisions.
I believe we can solve these issues if we become more creative and realize this is a new era, and the fact that our younger generation has never faced this crisis before.
As I recall, the American Dream for many is to live in a big home, on a large lot, in the best neighborhood in town. For many, renting is fine if you realize that you build no equity, and are subject to rent increases you cannot predict. Who would have ever thought that a basic two-bedroom apartment in Mesquite would be over $1,500 a month?
So what is a possible solution? I don’t have the allotted space here to go into detail, but if you are interested, look up tiny houses on line and take a look at Boxibl. There are many names for tiny houses, but whatever you call them, they could solve the housing shortage for many.
We know that an adequate supply of housing is an ongoing challenge. Today’s estimates are that there is shortfall of almost 7 million rental units available for lower-income families, and a single-family home supply shortage of roughly 3.8 million units.
We cannot depend on the Federal Government to solve the problem. It must come from the local level, and to this end we as a city government will do all we can to remedy the problem, but we will need your cooperation and understanding as we move forward. Everyone needs a decent place to live and thrive. I know this article does not have all the answers we are looking for, but we need to face the fact that too many will be missing out on the American Dream if we don’t act soon.
Al Litman is mayor of the city of Mesquite.