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Seeing both sides and affordable housing

Posted by Ryan on August 01, 2001 at 11:37:28:

In Reply to: Me, Too posted by Dayann on August 01, 2001 at 09:40:50:

Having seen both sides, it's interesting to note that no one actually "owns" their land-- but rather only _title_ to their land. Thus, the state grants title, which people buy and sell to each other, to use land for specific purposes only. When one has land, and a building on that land, one has to be aware that only socially permissible uses can be "legally" conducted in those premises-- including certain regulations on making it habitable to those who rent space out.

In the situation of a housing crisis, people are desperate to rent whatever they can get, and so whatever regulations there are to alleviate cost-cutting and other actions by landlords seems to be important.

On the other hand, how far to go with this? One could say, why are people choosing to live in an area with a housing crisis? People create their own self-defined and socially-defined boundaries, and feel helpless to change them. Why not live somewhere cheaper, less polluted, and perhaps even work less? There are people who do this. Do we discount them as unrealistic? Furthermore, people who choose to live in certain circumstances that are made available, and to pay rent, might consider it their own free choice.

Housing Codes and Affordable Housing
To what degree do housing codes hinder the production of new affordable housing? I believe that the high cost of providing "standard" western housing has made it impossible under current housing market conditions to profitably produce affordable housing. Certainly, the government could help produce more housing because the market system fails us, but perhaps a market mechanism might also function here if the costs of building-- and retrofitting old buildings-- where lowered. Many innovative and more environmentally sustainable building practices have been made impossible or unaffordable by building codes that are written with only the mainstream building industries in mind. The fact that government programs to build affordable housing (on the scale they are needed) are not on the political horizons is partly due to the costs we assume they would entail.

My own experience of providing affordable housing space was in a loft that I fixed up. It was "substandard" I admit, but everyone agreed that there was nothing of similar value around. Had I retrofitted it "to code", I wouldn't have been able to afford to get the loft to begin with and helped to create affordable housing space for myself and some others with low incomes. Short of renacting the rent control act, expanding it to units throughout the city, and reducing rents considerably, we won't see more affordable housing in the short term. I and other people needed housing immediately, not when it can be built, and so we took the matter into our own hands.

Perhaps this isn't the forum to say all this? Perhaps people expect a politically liberal or left centralized power to provide what the current market won't provide. I'm more interested in the community power of forming squats and affordable housing actions as I mentioned above. We are more than just "tenants"-- we are free individuals who can work together to create a better city neighborhood by neighborhood. Only by building such a power base through local actions to create affordable housing and other initiatives will we ever effect policy changes on a City-wide and State level. Right now where not on the rulers' agenda.

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