Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Once upon a time...

Democrats were supposed to be the party that cared about the poor. Not in Kentucky.

House Bill 447, sponsored by Susan Westrom, is specifically set up to prevent communities from passing affordable housing guidelines. legislative body or fiscal court shall adopt an ordinance or other land use regulation or impose as a condition of issuing a building permit, any requirement that has the effect of establishing the maximum sales price for a privately constructed residential housing unit or residential building lot or parcel, or that requires a housing unit or residential building lot or parcel to be designated for sale to any particular class or group of purchasers.

Let me clarify what "affordable housing" is: homes and apartments for people who don't have big incomes. It's not just about affordable housing, though. Co-sponsor Bob Damron makes that clear in his words to the Herald-Leader:

"The market ought to establish what type of housing will be in the development as opposed to a city mandating that you should have to have medium- or low-income (housing) in a development that also has large homes or expensive homes," Damron said. "If you're an individual and you built a home at $250,000, why should the city come in and mandate the houses on the next street be $75,000 to $100,000? That impacts the value of your home."

Let me translate again: rich people shouldn't have to deal with poor people living one street over from them. In 2004, Westrom mailed out flyers that criticized her opponent for living in a gated community and being out of touch with his neighbors. Her views have changed since then, apparently.

This sort of gentrification is going on in Florida at the moment. Hotels are turning into condos and timeshares, and houses are being torn down for McMansions. In Clearwater, the local businesses are suffering because tourists can't find hotel rooms and are detouring around this traditional hotspot. It's just as well, though, since the McDonald's employees would have to drive in from another county.

Westrom's bill does permit communities to set up incentives for builders to create affordable housing, but these will cost the cities money, either up front or in lost revenue. And the one thing that is clear in Kentucky is that money is short everywhere. I am appalled at the short-sighted selfishness of this bill, especially since I volunteered for Westrom in 2004. My only comfort is this: with the housing bubble popped, housing prices may soon become "affordable" for everyone.

Got a comment for Susan Westrom or Bob Damron? Call 1-800-372-7181 to leave a message.

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