The housing situation in the Denver metropolitan area is an abomination. We have some of the highest housing prices in the nation and the so called "affordability index" indicates that most people who live here cannot afford to purchase a home. As is to be expected given the exorbitant price of housing, the rental market is also hot and rents are astronomically high for many people. That is good news for landlords and bad news for tenants. If this were merely a short-term case of supply and demand equalization I would have no cause for concern. Indeed, I would not even bother posting to this blog about the issue if the free market was already at work fixing the problem. Sadly, that is not the case. Let me tell you the sordid tale of government interventionism and a Denver housing market run amok.
Claire Levy is a former state legislator and current Executive Director of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. According to her website, "The Colorado Center On Law and Policy (CCLP) has more than a decade of experience as one of Colorado's leading advocacy organizations dedicated to promoting justice, economic security, access to health care and sound fiscal policies." In other words, it is a political action group filled with busy bodies who believe it is their task in life to take money from productive people and give it to the unproductive. The website goes on to say, "CCLP promotes justice and economic security for low-income Coloradans by working to:
• improve access to public benefit programs such as Medicaid, CHP+, TANF, AND, SNAP and CCCAP,
• address health care costs and affordability,
• advance consumer interests on health care reform efforts,
• focus attention on wage inequality and the high cost of being poor in Colorado..."
I guess Claire's efforts in regards to the high cost of housing falls into the later category.
Claire wrote a guest commentary piece for the Denver Post last month in which she made some assertions that amazed and mystified me. As I read through her piece it occurred to me that she is the perfect example of the mindset of a career politician. Let me quote some of her article for you.
"Colorado's affordable housing crisis is pushing many Coloradans to the brink of homelessness, forcing them to skimp on food and other necessities, and threatening our economic growth. There is abundant evidence of the need to develop and preserve housing that ordinary people can afford. Unfortunately, despite frequent reports of record high rent throughout Colorado, this year's legislative session failed to address the problem. Affordable housing cannot be created without public funding, whether through tax credits, low interest loans or outright grants. The high cost of land and construction compounded by unprecedented demand has driven rents to a level beyond the reach of households earning median incomes or less."
We learn a lot about Claire in those few sentences. She is a Keynesian when it comes to her understanding of economics. She believes that economic growth is created by consumer spending and so she quite illogically and incorrectly concludes that tenants spending most of their incomes on rental payments will not have money to spend on other things, thus depressing economic growth and harming us all. Why the landlords who are earning windfall rental receipts cannot go out and spend that money on shiny things, thus paving our way to prosperity, is not explained. Claire also worships civil government. She sees a social problem and her only solution to the problem is to cry out for more laws to be created by the legislative branch of civil government. She concludes that there is no solution to the problem except government spending. In other words, this problem involving the high cost of housing just appeared out of nowhere one day and the only way to fix it is to tax people like me and give that money, less 20% for handling, to the privileged "poor" people Claire represents.
So far Claire is not doing anything a government worshiping career politician would not do. It is what Claire wrote after giving her perspective on the problem and the solution to the problem that amazed me. She wrote, "Putting aside the issue of construction defects litigation laws, Colorado still needs a huge investment in affordable apartments for families who cannot afford to be homeowners." Did you catch it? If you are not familiar with the previously crafted laws from the Colorado legislature which make it easy and profitable for every homeowner to sue the builder of his home into oblivion, you might want to take a moment and read this blog post. No construction project is ever completed to perfection. There are always imperfections in every new home. Under Colorado law a homeowner can sue the builder for even the most minor defects and blemishes, thus earning enormous sums of money in the litigation lottery for those homeowners who hire Frank Azar to represent them. To the surprise of no one with half a brain, home construction companies have exited the Denver metropolitan area and housing construction has ground to a half, thus leaving the bureaucrats and career politicians to rot in the mess their law created.
Now Claire steps up with the usual array of government created and taxpayer financed "solutions" to the problem she has created and she has the audacity to announce that she is simply going to "put aside" all consideration for why things are in the state they are in. Claire clearly recognizes that boneheaded and free market destroying government legislation is the cause of the problem. So what does she do? Does she call for a repeal of a stupid and economically harmful series of laws? Of course not! That is not the government loving way. Does she call for the removal of all impediments to construction, trusting that the free market will work things out quickly, efficiently and to the satisfaction of all participants who are not filled with envy or on the government dole? No, of course not, that is not her way. Claire, and other worshipers of civil government, simply dismisses the free market outright and calls for more government spending to fix the problems created by the prior government laws and spending programs.
Sometimes I think career politicians are too economically stupid to understand what they have done. Then someone like Claire comes along and makes it perfectly clear that she understands precisely what she has done. She knows the free market can fix her problem and she rejects that solution in favor of a government solution involving millions of taxpayer dollars that will, not surprisingly, keep her company afloat and active for years to come. Meanwhile the people she claims to be helping continue to suffer because she made the cavalier decision to "put aside" the solution to their problem. I expect Claire will receive a commendation and a plaque some day, recognizing her amazing service to the poor folks living within the Denver metropolitan community. Little will they realize she exploited all of them.