Moral Contradictions

Friday, September 22, 2006

Not class warfare

The term "affordable housing" triggers the mind to think "housing for the poor". Not so. The economic trends of the past thirty years have seen cost of living increases substantially suprassing salaries. Of course, I don't have to mention the signficant rise of CEO salaries in relationship to that of employee's wages.

What do you do when firefighters, as mentioned in this article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, cannot afford to buy a house because the market under $200,000 doesn't exist?

Clarke said his father, who works for the state police department, bought a 2,000-square-foot home in Chesterfield in 1986. At the time, his father was making about $30,000 and the home cost $70,000.

Nearly 20 years later, Clarke makes $36,000 a year and that same house is valued at $250,000.

"The cost of housing is still outpacing salaries," Lafayette said.

Am I the only one who sees this as a moral issue?

The desire and benefits of homeownership may cause couples to work longer hours or farther away for higher wages, sacrificing family time and increasing stress. Gone are the days of single incomes for many folks. Another option is for families is to move farther away from their jobs, such as this firefighter, adding time away from home.

This is not lower class people we're talking about - it's middle class folks, making a decent living, trying to get by, who must work much harder and longer to achieve what their parents were able to.

I understand that many of these factors are systematic and is economic in nature, but the historian in me says "it doesn't have to be this way." Nothing is inevitable. Still, I don't understand enough about economics to explain how this situation arose nor do I know enough to recommend a solution.

I am recommending that we Christians, if we really want to focus on the family, should start focusing on real, everyday issues that families actually do focus on, such as making money to give their children a decent life. With high rates of divorce plus studies that show financial disagreements as a major cause of marriage breakups, this issue needs input and concern from the Christian community if we want to be relevant to the problems society face.


  • If you're really concerned about housing costs, look at a cause the government can control; government intervention in the form of zoning and building codes.

    Your implied solution, the redistribution of income, penalizes all; the end result is less people can afford housing.

    By Blogger subpatre, at Saturday, September 23, 2006 10:48:00 AM  

  • Just to be fair, I didn't imply income redistribution - I just said we needed to engage the issue. Thank you for mentioning a way to do that.

    By Blogger Nathan, at Saturday, September 23, 2006 4:12:00 PM  

  • Nathan,

    Don't know where the dude got the idea that you're trying to redistribute income. sigh Maybe that's one of his personal fears. The Living God that I know doesn't HAVE a shortage of resources. He redistributes to me everyday.

    One of the many things that we can do to make housing more affordable is to move information workers out of the "hot" real estate markets. Smaller towns can be great places to live and smaller offices (or even working from home) can be a wonderful alternative to working in a large office facility in a congested urban setting. Many information workers can work remotely and relieve some of the pressure on housing markets, thereby allowing prices to become more realistic. Let those who MUST be physically present in an urban market (first responders, for instance) have less competition for housing.

    Who can enable this? Stockholders and stakeholders of corporations, among others. Corporate policies can be modified to encourage relocation AWAY from over-priced housing markets.

    Will it be a major effort over the long-term? You betcha. Is this the whole solution? I doubt it but I know there are a whole bunch of people out there with even better minds than mine. There are already groups of people forming housing cooperatives and other home ownership alternatives. But you're right if you are suggesting that Christians must broaden our view of just what it is that is 'family values'. Our Heavenly Father is concerned with every aspect of our existence. So also must we be concerned for each other.

    YOU are part of the solution by helping us keep this on the front burner. Keep on blogging!

    By Blogger Tom, at Saturday, September 23, 2006 9:41:00 PM  

  • Nathan,
    You are not the only one to consider this a moral issue. I have a Ph.D. and my wife has two masters' degrees. But we rent. We cannot afford any house being built in the current market.

    Affordable housing is a moral issue. It should be front and center of church concern and political concern.

    By Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White, at Saturday, September 23, 2006 11:34:00 PM  

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development uses the following standard to define 'affordable housing.' The federal government has determined that if a household spends over 30% of their household income on housing, then that does not leave sufficient income for other necessities such as food and clothing. Any American, poor or middle class, that is considering purchasing a home must find a market where their payments will be no more than 30% of their income. Those markets are becoming harder and harder to find. Mr Subpatre would suggest that the problem isn't one of money, but rather that housing costs to much because of government zoning and land-use regulations. His argument falls apart when we look at what an industry expert has written. Ron Feldman, Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis wrote in a white paper on August 2, 2002 that, "After examining the data for the United States, we find that low incomes are the primary reason why so many live in unaffordable housing units. Even if costs fell significantly - by an amount roughly equal to estimates of the increase in cost due to government regulations - the vast majority living in the United States will still live in housing considered unaffordable."

    As to calling for a dialog between Christians, I would suggest the following quote from the complete article I reposted on my blog, be considered first. 'Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation's educational decline, but it probably doesn't matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin's wisdom not biblical; it's counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up."

    Until American Christians learn that the commandment to love our neighbor as ourself applies to more than just our neighbor in the next pew, but also includes our neighbors further away, a dialog will not help. Until the majority of American Christians realize that Ben Fanklins quote that 'God helps those who help themself." is NOT scripture, no dialog will help. We, as Christians, face a fundamental reexamination. We must be willing to place under the microscope of God's Word all of our preconceived notions.

    By Blogger Dusty Bogard, at Monday, September 25, 2006 12:00:00 AM  

  • Hello,

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    By Blogger MortgageTop, at Tuesday, October 24, 2006 1:33:00 PM  

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