When it comes to affordable housing, government makes things worse -- and better.
Something's got to give
At some point, when enough people can't buy the homes that developers are building, they'll build homes people can buy. Midgett, the Ocala lawyer, says there are more Section 8 units available now than six months ago because the "cooling housing market" has forced some developers of higher-end spec houses intended for resale to instead rent out those units at moderate rents.
The best thing about the soft housing market is that the affordable-housing policy-makers may at least be able to catch their breaths and adapt programs. Prices were beginning to outstrip the ideas as well as the money.
"Loans started out being forgivable for people who stayed five to seven years," says Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition and head of the affordable housing project at 1000 Friends of Florida. "But then they would sell the house, and we were not really able to help the next person." Ross is a strong advocate of land trusts, using land donated by governments or non-profits. It has the additional advantage of retaining control over that land far into the future.
Ultimately, government policy is going to have to reconcile the contradictory impulses in its policies. You can't have subsidized, rapid economic growth, adequate infrastructure, effective land use, lower tax levels and little growth in housing costs. Something will have to give. Until then, the only thing legislators can do is ignore the problem or throw more money at it. And employers might learn to fend for themselves.