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Bad Government Has Caused Housing Problems

Affordable housing is such a no-brainer ("Out-Housed," News & Features, Nov. 8). Unfortunately, when politicians and other intellectuals ply their trade on the mysteries of housing the common man, things get very heady.

Consider: If you were a builder, how many unprofitable units would you build? And if a jurisdiction required you to build a percentage of unprofitable units, wouldn't you seek a more favorable site?

An alternative is to subsidize affordable units with tax dollars. We already have over 50 years of experience with Richmond's seven housing projects that surround us, manufacturing future crooks and miserables every day.

Try this. Get in your car and methodically drive through every part of town. Count the vacant buildings. You will find hundreds. Most need repair thanks to a failed bureaucracy that didn't enforce building codes.

These buildings can be repaired at a fraction of new construction costs plus all the other benefits: saving houses that characterize the city, enhancing tax revenues and taming neighborhoods.

Two actions are needed:

1. Enforce building maintenance codes on all buildings. With fines of $1,000 per day per offense, the price of a building can plummet overnight. Fix it or sell it. Affordable housing can be a reality.

2. Hire and train in law enforcement enough police to control crime so that homeowners are safe everywhere. Remove judges that don't get it.

Years of dysfunctional government have allowed a critical mass of careless citizens to make parts of Richmond difficult to inhabit. Both citizens and government have neglected their obligations.

The larger statement necessitates, "If you live in Richmond, you will behave." That means complying with codes for buildings, noise, trash, graffiti, killing and anything that separates us from civility. That's why cops have bullets.

With our fresh, new government we can recapture the good old days and live again fearlessly in reasonable, comfortable dwellings. Harangue your officials until they make it happen. Make Richmond the place people flee to, not from.

Sam Forrest

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