Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fix Housing or Sell Housing?

I got interested when I saw the name of the initiative--Fix Housing First. At last, I thought, someone is paying attention to the problem of our aging housing stock. It's a waste to continually tear down existing housing and build new in its place (or spread out and use up more land) when so many properties could be repaired and upgraded, maintaining the character and livabilty of existing neighborhoods.

But alas, the Fix Housing First initiative has nothing to do with fixing houses, it is about incentives to buy and sell homes--a package of tax credits and low fixed rate mortgages for buyers of homes. Nothing for those who prefer to stay where they are.

Now, I recognize that we are all impacted by the decline in home prices, and housing market improvements will help everyone secure credit and retain wealth. Many seniors, in particular, have had to delay plans to move to assisted living or to be closer to family because of the slow real estate market, so a rebound would be particularly advantageous for them. A rebound in the housing market will be good for most existing home buyers.

But the cynic in me also knows that large scale developers are the most direct beneficiaries of a program like this. And I'm reminded that speculation and overdevelopment are partly at fault for the decline in home values, which were inflated by the real estate bubble. Rather than always pushing to use up more land and to build new, wouldn't it be nice to see incentives and programs that support people who invest in their existing property and who help improve and maintain the neighborhood where they live? That would be wiser and lead to more sustainable and effective housing for most.

More details about the Fix Housing Now initiative here: