Friday, March 14, 2008 | Scott Lewis seems genuinely surprised at what he discovered about the price of so-called “affordable housing.” This has been the documented history of affordable housing for over 30 years going back to Pennsylvania v. James T. Lynn (Secretary of HUD in 1974) to the U.S. Comptroller General’s report to Congress in 1980, to the House of Representatives Hearing on Section 8 Housing: Waste and Mismanagement 1994. In summary, affordable housing projects are “so expensive, only the poor could afford to live in them.”

In San Diego, affordable housing typically costs from 2 to 3 times more to build than market rate housing. In other words, if government were responsible for building all housing, we would have half to one third as many dwelling units in San Diego, with all the multi-generation doubling up that is so common in many other countries where housing is totally government controlled. To be sure, much, if not most, of the cost in the United States is disguised by numerous accounting techniques.

First and foremost, affordable housing has never been about providing decent, safe, sanitary housing for poor people and never for street people, the poorest of all. It is more akin to the food stamp programs of the past, an agricultural program for farmers but primarily for politicians in their never ending quest for money, power, and votes.

Fred Schnaubelt was a San Diego City Councilman from 1977 to 1981.

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