To the editor:
Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman once noted that a government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.
RI’s solution to affordable housing is even worse than that.
The current affordable housing mandates are a financial boondoggle for developers, lawyers and bureaucrats, and have turned into an environmental nightmare. The words “affordable housing” are now code for build-out gone wild.
Does affordable development make sense in sensitive ecological areas? No. But in one recent affordable housing appeal, arguments are being made that the state affordable mandates should take precedence over ecological concerns.
The Doug Rayner Wildlife Sanctuary at Nockum Hill in Barrington is a 70-acre nature reserve with significant natural marshes and uplands that are home to endangered bird species and the diamondback terrapin. A developer wants to build 24 condominiums adjacent to this wildlife refuge. North End Holdings of Wakefield has filed an appeal of the planning board’s Aug. 27 decision denying the development to the State Housing Appeals Board (SHAB).
The grounds for the appeal are based in large part on arguments that Barrington “is not meeting its affordable housing needs.” This is developer manipulation of the facts since the developer will only say that “up to six” of the units in the project will be affordable units.
Barrington is often mistaken as an entirely rich community. But this is not true. The 2012 US Census Data shows that 31 percent of Barrington residents have total annual household income of less than $60,000, similar to most other communities in RI.
And in reality, in Barrington, according to assessed values, 30 percent of the current housing could already qualify as HUD “affordable”.
The problem? It’s not that there are insufficient affordable housing units. It is that the faulty “affordable” formulas have been statutorily rigged by promoters of affordable housing to purport to show that there are not enough “deed restricted” “affordable” homes. We are now just beginning to see the results of the faulty statutory mandates – RI communities cannot ever build enough deed restricted homes to meet the ever-elusive statutory goal.
RI municipalities can continue to allow developers to pave over the environment, but fiscal common sense tells us that the faulty statutory mandates must be stopped before RI government mandates that developers completely “pave over paradise.”
On Nov. 6, RI will be asked to approve Question 7 to fund the folly that is the faulty Affordable Housing statutory scheme. This is not about serving the needy. It is about serving a bureaucratic fiefdom of developers, lawyers and anyone but the truly needy.
RI housing laws must be amended to enforce prudent use of limited resources and funds.
Until that happens, Question 7 initiatives should be rejected.