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Progressives in Howard County need to STOP TOUTING trickle down housing theory. Imploring the Council to support HoCo By Design’s residential development spree, with heartfelt outpouring of concern for low income and homeless in the County is a call to action to worsen the stated concerns.

Many articles have been written regarding misguided trickle down economic theories, for decades. This is easily applied to the notion that increasing market rate housing supply will somehow make housing more affordable at the lowest income levels, or even help the homeless. That is patently absurd.

Yes, it is an economic market fact that increasing the supply of something typically decreases its price, but you have to take the demand curve into account as well. Howard County housing demand for market rate homes is so high that increasing supply is not going to change home prices by any significant amount. Most assuredly, it will not make any home affordable to any income level that was not affordable prior to a glut of building. Low income people will not suddenly be able to afford a home in Howard County because of a small price decrease due to larger supply. As for the homeless, they are not assisted at all by a small decrease in home prices.

Quoting a large need of affordable units in the County is not evidence of needing more market rate housing. It is a data point that instead should be evidencing the need to build more low income housing and budget more homelessness assistance.

We need to start talking about what I want to term, equitable growth. Using low-income and homelessness data to churn high-priced housing growth is incredibly short-sighted at best, deplorably motivated at worst. To spur equitable growth, we need to help the poor, not the rich.

I am not suggesting a Robin Hood plan to take from the developers to help the poor. I am pointing out that the County needs to stop giving developers money, tax benefits, waivers, and exemptions in regulations and funding, WITHOUT requiring double or more of the required middle or low income affordable housing. Anyone who has a problem with that, has no business claiming they are for more affordable housing.

HoCo By Design includes implementation suggestions at the end of chapters that include giving lots of benefits to developers without specific requirements to provide more affordable housing in return. The notion that just having more housing in general will create more affordable for middle, low income or homeless people is FALSE. All that will do is make our infrastructure more overwhelmed, without proper funding to keep it up, thus creating higher expenses for the County with less ability to provide assistance to those in need.

We need to require spectrums of housing supply to get benefits beyond normal market development building procedures. We need to help the poor and homeless in the County more directly. Trickle down doesn’t work, and adding it to housing policies is misguided.

As the market demand determines supply of market rate housing, what we need to incentivize, and have the County interject into the market supply side, is actual creation of affordable units. Preferably, permanent ones, spread across regions.


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