Slum Housing Next to You

Almost all of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission members are trying to place slum dwellings in essentially every area of the county. This would reduce property values, change neighborhoods and increase crime. The concept is to provide "affordable" housing for the poor, low wage workers and "diversity" in every area.

Income eligibility in the proposed housing would be zero to $45,000 per year. No methods for verifying income are included in planning documents.

The housing has the neutral name of Residential Studio Units, or RSUs. The units would be 220 to 320 square feet plus a kitchen and bathroom. Buildings would contain three to 75 units and have one parking space per unit.

The planners refuse to define what rents would constitute "affordable" housing. Low rents would bring in many workers and that would depress wages.

However the county would impose rent controls, with unexplained formulas. Rent controls have destroyed housing everywhere they have been tried. Anyone who has seen the burned out buildings and staggering citizens in Harlem in Manhattan or the Bronx can envisage what Fairfax could be.

Fairfax planners did not cite studies of any areas that tried rent controls. Almost all cities in the US and abroad gave up rent controls. In New York City, many owners abandoned their rent controlled buildings or converted them to condominiums and sold them to the tenants at small prices. In the UK the government essentially gave away "council housing".

Even the problems next door in Sterling were ignored. These were overcrowding, destruction of homes, crime and many cars. Workers who came into the US illegally crowded some homes, destroyed them and moved on. Property values declined.

Fortunately the county would not be building the slum housing or subsidizing it. The county did not analyze why any rational businessman would invest in such housing and accept rent controls. No economics of construction and operation were shown, and no target rates of return were discussed.

Planners testified building owners would be cited for actions of tenants that violate regulations and laws. The county would not help with evictions of tenants who don't pay rent, destroy the property, have drunken noisy parties, overcrowd the units and litter the area.

One of the people testifying before the committee discussing the slum housing proposal on November 20 cited his experience with owning over 300 similar apartments in DC. Crime was so bad he had to post policemen 24 hours per day in each of the buildings he owned. He sold out.

By bringing in more poor to Fairfax, this will drive down wages for workers. This encourages employers to have an unholy alliance with Democrat political leaders. Conversely a tight labor market causes wages to go up. Stores in Fairfax seem to be able to find workers, so no shortage exists.

At least two hearings on the slum housing proposal have shown massive community resistance. As a result, the committee studying the proposal plans to recommend that the slum housing not go into areas that are zoned fewer than 12 families per acre. Fred Costello, PhD, concluded in a study the people theoretically needing affordable housing could be accommodated in zones rated for 20 families or more per acre.

The county did not do a study of how many people would utilize housing at various rent levels. New York City encouraged an influx of poor with a strong welfare program that did not require a previous residency record and a work requirement. Once New York tightened the program, the influx stopped.

The county also did not analyze the demand for more roads and road maintenance, schools, medical facilities, fire departments, parks, police and jails. Poor and low-wage people tend to have cars, even if buses and the Metro are nearby. The poor tend to have disproportionate needs for services paid by taxpayers than the middle class.

Public outcry against the inadequately researched and thought out proposal, is having an effect. With no prospects of an acceptable rate of return to investors, the proposed slum housing is unlikely to materialize. Nevertheless, the supervisors and planners are determined to introduce slum housing. Businessmen like the prospects of depressing wages. Several more hearings and reports are planned for 2014.

-- Tom Cranmer