“. . . . just build more housing.”

"Damned if we'll work for what they pay folks hereabouts." photo by C. Thomas Anderson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
1936, Arkansas. Cotton workers on the road, carrying all they possess in the world.

The headline is a conservative reaction to the annual publication of American housing affordability statistics by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Nothing wrong with the headline from a progressive point of view, either.

The affordability statistics are predictably grim. Read more from CNBC: No Full-Time Minimum-Wage Worker Can Afford A 2-Bedroom Apartment In Any Us State

Oh, by the way, you may or may not have noticed that the affordability statistics quoted in the article are a year old, from June, 2017.

That’s a useful perspective from which to consider the eerie similarity to a headline following the publication of this year’s June 2018 affordability statistics, as reported in The Washington Post: A Minimum-Wage Worker Can’t Afford A 2-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere In The U.S.

Has a CNBC writer gone to work for The Washington Post? Have we reached a ho-hum tipping point where the same 2-bedroom unaffordability story will hit all the news outlets every year hence, along with NORAD tracking an unidentified flying object over the North Pole every Christmas Eve?

What about a trend story? Could major publications not have at least have indicated in their headline whether the problem was getting better or worse?

Here at affordablehousingaction.org we seem to be having a little grumble about how the National Low Income Housing Coalition‘s annual statistics are being handled by the ‘progressive’ press (or the ‘Fake News’ industry, according to some rather well-known presidents).

In this regard, we find ourselves unexpectedly in conservative company. Unexpected, because we consider ourselves at least as ‘progressive’ as those ‘progressives’ who rate approximately one sneer a paragraph in the article which we are recommending to read.

It was published last year in the New Republic, and since nothing much seems to have changed in the handling of the National Low Income Housing Coalition‘s annual statistics by the ‘progressive’ press, it seems reasonable to recommend a read of the New Republic this year.

The New Republic article explains why the National Low Income Housing Coalition‘s annual statistics could be framed in a way somewhat less likely to make them appear to be so generally misinterpreted. And the article further explains why an enormous number of minimum wage people continue to live and work in the U.S. in spite of reporting that, based on a skim across headlines, seems to suggest that it is no longer possible.

The takeaway from this first half of a very lengthy and interesting article is this: ‘Stand Down, Chicken Little. The Sky is not Falling.’

However, though Chicken Little can hit the bench for a well-deserved half barrel of Gatorade, well interpreted statistics can compare one year to the next just as effectively as badly interpreted statistics. In both cases, the statistics indicate that, if not falling, the sky is descending like a collapsing stage at an overcrowded rock concert. Take a deep breath, then back on your feet, Chicken Little!

More interesting, we feel, is the second half of the article which discusses the concept of ‘value’ in a free market, both the value of resources traded and the value of labour. There’s a also a useful explanation of how money represents these values. It concludes that neither increasing wages nor subsidies in the name of affordability can be anything but inflationary. They will simply accelerate the rise of unaffordability in the market. In the context of the current US housing market, that’s pretty much the way we feel, too.

And we are most taken with the author’s final suggestion: “. . .just build more houses.” Alas, he does not explain how they will be built, or made affordable.

As dreaded ‘progressives’ we lean towards a massive amount of government-built public housing, within a much better better conceived and delivered management framework, and without the decades of nasty prejudice and ‘blame the victims’ sabotage. Somehow, we doubt the National Review shares our views on how to build more affordable housing.

However, we feel that the entirety of this article is a useful read for progressives as well as for conservatives. Meet the author and read the full story in The National Review: How to Think about Low-Income Housing