"One's first step in wisdom is to question everything--and one's last is to come to terms with everything." ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Save the Trailers!
Exclusive to STR
'Drag a hundred dollars through a trailer park and you never know what you will find' were the words of former President Bill Clinton's advisor James (Ragin' Cajun) Carville, while defending his boss against accusations made by Paula Jones. Apparently Florida state Senator Mike Bennett wants to find out. The Senator recently filed a bill he claims will protect these bastions of affordable housing.
The bill would pronounce all mobile homes safe and affordable and open up the spigot of taxpayer dollars (much more than Mr. Carville's imaginary Franklin ) in order to assist mobile home owners to relocate or purchase a new mobile home if their existing one can't be moved. The bill would also require local governments to rezone sites to develop new mobile home parks.
The bill is rife with the usual goodies, including rent subsidies paying the difference between lot rents and market rents. As well as some draconian measures like charging trailer park owners 10 to 25 percent late fees for failing to pay into the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Fund ( the Senator giveth and the Senator taketh away).
The most obvious consequence of passing this legislation is that it will make life in trailer parks less affordable. Owners of the trailer parks will pass along their cost of 'contributing' to the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Fund to their tenants in one form or another. Allotting for subsidies of rents will also serve to raise rents, making them much less 'affordable' (more expensive), especially for those who can't navigate the bureaucratic quagmire in order to qualify for them. This is already true of the federally subsidized Section Eight housing program.
Further crippling free market forces by requiring rezoning of land for mobile home parks will only serve to lessen the choices of low income dwellers. By forcing land owners to rezone land (it won't come cheaply'see the Bert Harris Act) in order to accommodate trailer parks, government will drive up prices (rents) for affordable housing by limiting development, while at the same time stifling innovation and ultimately making lower income housing less palatable and safe (see Cuba).
Some folks don't think the senator's legislation does enough. Jamie Ross, who is the affordable housing director of 1000 Friends of Florida (a consortium of groups advocating for socialist bull), complains that 'the focus of this bill is to use public dollars when in fact the private sector should be paying' (so far so good). She adds, 'developers would make sure that everyone had a place to move to, and that might mean that the developer has to give Mr. and Mrs. Smith $100,000. But he'll do it because he's going to make a million on that lot.' Sounds like Ms. Ross slept through her basic economic and civics classes in high school.
Taking Ms. Ross' suggestion seriously (as hard as that may be) would mean that rather than the government forcing taxpayers to pay for relocation of displaced trailer dwellers (a stupid idea in and of itself), it would force private concerns to compensate people for land they do not own (just as stupid of an idea). This would not only be costly for the developer (a greedy SOB in Ms. Ross' book) but it would drive housing prices through the roof, in the end making livable, affordable housing something you will only read about in history books.
Examples of the effects of burdensome regulations suggested by the senator and Ms. Ross on affordable housing exist here in the US . In Harris County, Texas (Houston), there is no zoning or land use restrictions, which means that landowners can pretty much develop what they want on their land, while in Miami-Dade County, Florida (Miami), developers are subject to a myriad of regulations and board approvals (that would make even Karl Marx blush). The average price for a home in Harris County is $127,290 ( Texas has no property taxes, either) and the average rent is $512 monthly. In Miami-Dade County , the average price for a home is $363,800 (add approximately $3,500 in annual real estate taxes), and the average rent is $907. Need I say more?