“Thanks, But No Thanks:” Austin TX Scorns State Affordable Housing Bribery Cash

A view of many untidy desks and consulting officials in the senate chamber of the Texas legislature
Austin - Texas Capitol: Senate Chamber photo by Wally Gobetz is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The Senate Chamber of the Texas State Legislature in Austin. Seems governments can attach so many strings to funding that even other governments can't make use of them.

The willingness of governments to scrape affordable housing responsibility off their plates finds an almost perfect match with ‘small government’ philosophy, founded on the idea that ‘private enterprise can do it better’. Well, it matches on paper at least.

For a fine example of how regional government can exploit this advantage both philosophically and in practical terms, consider Ontario, Canada, which has recently published an explanation of how non-family members can purchase housing together and make housing more affordable by co-living.1

Those private enterprisers are just every-day folks. Let them do it better! The government outlay is pretty much limited to a brochure. A brilliant commitment without commitment, unfortunately not entirely what is needed these days. Try: The Dream Of Co-Ownership? What To Consider Before Sharing A Home  

However, when it comes to pushing public affordable money towards private enterprise in the form of housing developers ‘who can it better’, the story becomes much messier.

Invariably, private developers ‘don’t wanna.’

Which brings us to bribes. When it comes to governments bribing private enterprise with cash or in-kind to do affordable housing better, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is some kind of clever economic leverage that magics a one-house $200K bribe into a $1 million, five-house product.

Developers see this thinking aimed at the most flexible source of money — their profits, and are far from amused or cooperative.

So when a $200k bribe nets only one 200k house, that’s not really much value for money, bribe-wise, is it? And that’s before the real bribery project math kicks in. Because a program that carefully sets aside a $200K bribe at the right time under the right conditions to the right people requires administration. That costs money.

Is it all really worth it? After evaluating one such Texas state program aimed at preserving, rather than building, affordable housing, the city of Austin said, ‘Thanks but no thanks.’ Read more at the Austin Monitor: State Empowerment Zones Seen As Wrong Tool For City To Preserve Affordable Housing

Better value for money? Local councils have spent several decades of spinning the magic PPP2 wheel of fortune in the United Kingdom, with results often falling far short of actual needs.  More and more local governments are eyeing a return to non-profit DIY3 development, either alone or in partnership with a non-profit company. For kind of solution under consideration, try: UK Affordable PPP Problem: “One Of Our ‘P’s Is Broken”

Footnotes

  1. Try: Co-living: What Is It? Who Does It? Why Bother?
  2. PPP — Public Private Partnership
  3. DIY — Do It Yourself