Opinion

Vision 2040 squashes housing affordability

This is the fourth in a series of articles dealing with Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Vision 2040, a regional long-range land use planning policy being imposed on Kitsap County. The review is being provided by Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners to address the underlying question, “Is Vision 2040 beneficial to Kitsap?”

In this part, we will review the Vision 2040 policies dealing with housing. With the concentration of available housing in fixed boundary urban areas and placing reliance on mass transit for movement of people. It will come as no surprise that the availability of choice in housing (where will you live and in what kind of home) will be severely limited. The policies have declared their worthy intent to: “Provide a range of housing types and choices to meet the housing needs of all income levels and demographic groups within the region” (H-1) there is little in the policies or the other goal areas that allow this policy to be meaningful.

In fact, some other policies clearly counter the “choice” concept. Policy H-3 requires placing “centers.” Policy H-6 directs transportation funding priorities to development of “centers.” Policy H-4 calls for concentration housing development near job locations for “accessibility and the opportunity to live in the proximity of work.”

Significant claims are made in Vision 2040 that these policies will ensure adequate housing is available for all. While much effort is directed toward “affordable housing” (buzz words for low cost or subsidized housing), little effort is directed toward the problem of housing affordability, that is, the ability of the housing market to provide a spectrum of desired housing at affordable prices.

Nowhere in Vision 2040 is there any recognition that the regulations enacted to implement the policies also have a direct and significant impact on the cost of housing. A recent University of Washington economics study revealed that the impact of growth management-related regulations has been to add approximately $200,000 to the cost of an eastside home, without providing any added value to the homeowner. In Kitsap, the impact estimate is about $130,000, a dollar impact that clearly explains why first-time home buyers throughout the region are almost nonexistent.

Regardless of outcomes, there is no elected official accountability. With housing development encouraged and focused into existing urban areas and centers, homes will be built according to policy rather than market demand. It is clear that to accommodate new population growth higher density in small areas will be required, with an emphasis on “up and not out.” Actual choice for a home owner will be limited, and how and where will be a matter of policy, not preference. Driven by artificial scarcity of land, the cost of housing will continue to rise. More costly building regulation will likely also be added. “Affordable housing” will be available only at increased tax burden to all those paying full fare for their housing. The concept of housing in proximity to work will be meaningless as fewer employers will be able to pay at the levels necessary for home ownership or even rental.

As is the case with other policies developed by the predominant counties (Snohomish, King and Pierce), we find PSRC equipped to use federal, state and local transportation funds as a fiscal enforcement hammer to force compliance with the housing policies of Vision 2040.

Karl Duff is the president of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners.

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