Affordable? Workforce? Madison Developers Have Cake, Choke While Eating

fireworks against a night sky
A development proposal with some affordable housing units in Madison Wisconsin is setting off fireworks for council and the builder.

Pity those poor housing developers, bamboozled by their own bamboozlement. As always, preparing to meet NIMBYites who man the neighbourhood ramparts, developers take up righteous sword and prepare to do battle, only to find themselves facing . . . themselves.

In the space of a year or two, housing developers and their boosters have successfully deconstructed the term ‘affordable housing’ until it means virtually all things to all project proposers on one hand, and to all housing crisis-conscious governments on the other.

Diligent boosterism introduced the idea that ‘affordable housing’ could include middle class housing, explained as ‘workforce housing’ — a sounds-good definition for the hard-working middle class while accidentally-on-purpose(?) excluding hard-working lower class, minimum wage and unemployed workers and their families (e.g. many seniors).

Over the last year or so ‘workforce housing’ has for all practical development purposes become synonymous (at least in the minds of some developers and some governments) with ‘affordable housing.’ For one example, just take a quick glance at the link featured at the bottom of this page.

But this clever two-step of branding and rebranding is coming back to haunt developers. The problem: NIMBYites can be depended upon to fear the worst. Their logical train of thought is clear:

“So, you want to build ‘workforce’ housing. But ‘workforce’ housing is ‘affordable’ housing and ‘affordable’ housing has a bad rap, coming as it does with indigents and criminals and drugs and street crime.”

Developer would-be protestation of this viewpoint, alas, cannot be frankly explained and in any case can be depended to fall upon deaf ears:

“No, no no . . . we want to build ‘workforce’ housing, which is middle class housing for upstanding citizens who can afford better housing and who belong in your neighbourhood. But we need the government grants and tax breaks offered for ‘affordable’ housing so we can make a healthy profit. So, naturally we call our ‘workforce’ housing ‘affordable,’ but it is absolutely not meant to be the kind of pure evil ‘affordable’ housing that you NIMBYites have got stuck in your brains.”

Poor old developers, struggling to have their cake and eat it.

For just one example from Madison, Wisconsin, read more at The Cap Times:  Proposed Apartments On Madison’s East Side Would Provide Over 200 Units Of Workforce Housing


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