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ThoughtsOnline

Thursday, March 03, 2005


The top elected leaders of Fairfax and Prince William Counties (VA) got together to bemoan the lack of affordable housing and "vowed to set policies to make more homes and apartments accessible to low- and moderate-income workers".

What a ridiculous idea...

Considering that Fairfax County is rapidly running out of space to build new housing, every housing unit created for a low income worker is a higher-income worker who will have to find housing outside of the County. What a wonderful reward for those who have made a moderate success of themselves, to be told that they are not welcome in Fairfax County.

Every housing unit designated for low income workers will lower the Fairfax County property tax base. A $80,000 unit will generate less than $1,000 in property taxes. A $400,000 unit will generate 5 times as much. Multiply that by the 5,000 or so units that are under discussion and there's $20 million in foregone tax revenue. Given the complaining Connolly does about the County always needing more money, you'd think he'd have second thoughts about giving up tax revenue.

There's also far more crime associated with lower-income workers than higher-income workers (save your e-mails, I'm not saying ALL low income workers are criminals). Suppose the crime rate (and I'm making these numbers up for illustrative purposes only) is 1 crime per year per 100 low income residents, but only 1 crime per year per 500 higher-income residents. Why in the world would we want to create conditions by which crime rises in the County? Why in the world would we want to have to increase our expenditures for the police and fire fighters necessary to respond to higher levels of crime?

Our intrepid leaders bemoan the fact that many people who work in Fairfax County can't afford to live in Fairfax County. So what? There's nothing wrong with that. Another way of looking at it is that people living outside the County want to work in Fairfax - which is a good thing. I don't read of the DC government complaining that people who work in the District live outside DC boundaries (actually, they do, but that is because the DC government wants to tax those workers incomes... were the District able to do that, they'd have no complaint at all).

I don't buy the argument that one of the reasons that traffic is so bad is because of all the people who can't afford to live in Fairfax County. There's far more intra-County traffic than inter-County commuting traffic. In fact, a significant chunk of the inter-County commuting traffic is workers passing through Fairfax County on the way to somewhere else. Another significant chunk are Fairfax County residents who work outside Fairfax County, whether it be the District, Loudoun County, Alexandria City, Arlington County or Montgomery County in Maryland.

And of course, they lament the fact that County employees can't all afford to live in the County. See, they're not really upset over the private sector workers who drive in from neighboring jurisdictions. They're more concerned with getting reelected - all the thousands of county workers who live outside the county and thus can't vote for the likes of Connolly in Fairfax County elections. They want to throw these County employees some more money - through either subsidies or loans - in order to build up their political support base.