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  • Writer's pictureDon Magruder

Federal, State, and Local Government Actions Affect Affordable Housing

Let’s be honest, not everyone shares the same concerns about affordable housing. There are the folks who don’t want new housing developments in their neighborhood because it will affect their slow-paced serene lifestyle, and there are others who are identified as the NIMBYs- the Not in My Backyard group. The common thread between these two groups is they are the ones who enjoy the safety and security of a home they own.

Many homeowners don’t want affordable housing in their neighborhoods; however, a large number of essential workers live in these new housing developments. Despite the whims of those who don’t want new housing in their neighborhoods, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught this country a valuable lesson - we need these essential workers. Activists will continue to fill the local county board rooms complaining about housing developments, and yet, these are the same people who also expect to have essential services like police, fire, schools, and retail associates local and readily available. Unless these anti-affordable housing activists expect workers to live in cars or commute long distances daily, this area, as well as the rest of the country, needs to start addressing the urgent need for affordable housing.

While partisans of both sides like to blame the ones in Washington, D.C. for all the affordable housing problems, the issues are more frequently created by local government than by the federal government. Yes, the federal government controls interest rates, the ability to lend and promote affordable housing, as well as regulatory issues like OSHA and the environment; however, the Federal Government has been very good with historic low interest rates and the availability of hundreds of millions of dollars for low interest loans for affordable housing. In fact, the Biden administration in their Build Back Plan is trying to advocate for a nationwide affordable housing program, because President Biden believes that this is how you grow wealth in the middle class. Environmental and worker regulations have some minor impacts on affordable housing; however, most Americans agree that workers must be kept safe on job and that the environment should not be destroyed.

The state of Florida needs improvement in promoting affordable housing. The biggest issue in this state is the over-coding of construction and development which forces every home to be constructed with the same quality. The codes to a $200,000 home are the same as a $2 million dollar home. In short, you can’t build a good, better, or best home structurally in Florida. Additionally, every other year, the construction bureaucracy adds more codes which raise housing costs even further. The other problem is that the state mandated affordable housing funding through the Sadowski Act, which is privately funded by every real estate transaction, has been raided almost yearly, and since 2000, over $2 billion dollars has been diverted away from affordable housing. This lack of funding for the last two decades is one of the primary reasons there is little affordable housing in the state.

Local governments create the biggest obstacles with affordable housing by continually increasing impact and building permit fees, along with charging large sums of money for utility hook-ups. Furthermore, they are manipulating Comprehensive Land Plans and approvals to discourage new developments which could help in providing affordable housing. On top of this, there are the systemic issues such as long approval times for new projects and delayed inspections once the projects start. Most local jurisdictions look for new projects to be denied in hopes of discouraging development. From trying to double impact fees or requiring super majorities on the commission to approve changes in the comprehensive land plan, local government is the worst governmental problem when it comes to affordable housing.

Many want to believe that the greed of builders, subcontractors, and suppliers is the problem when it comes to housing, however, government greed in the form of additional fees and regulations is the biggest issue with affordable housing.

If something is not changed in short order, essential services to all the people who are opposed to affordable housing will be reduced. The first step in correcting America’s affordable housing crisis is to get government overreach out of the way.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Show which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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