A conundrum of our times

A message to a friend … 

 Your wonderment about open lots in downtown is interesting. As usual, always take this just as exploratory, not that any outcome is better than another, only that, well, there are different outcomes for different reasons.

 First off I note that Phoenix has always had any anti-density mindset. Don’t “manhattanize” is a phrase I’ve seen in the various “people’s publications.” The AZ Republic is not friendly to skyscrapers either. It turns out that the zoning of Phoenix has encouraged the spread out nature of the city. Meanwhile, the land values – because of the city being a desired living space – climb. Zoning increases the price, in a way that is hard to perceive. Basically, zoning, as practiced in America, leads to the value of the rentable space allowed to be built on most parcels below the value of the land and taxes and upkeep that is demanded by the building codes. So in a sense, the city has legislated out of existence any mathematical reality of building a building that could pay for itself. Meanwhile, because the zoning keeps the density low, those projects and complexes built with public subsidies (or, as I like to call them, taking the last few nickels out of the poor schnook’s pocket to give to millionaire developers so they can build affordable housing in the inner city where rich people would have no problem paying exorbitant prices for pied a terre’s in the sky if the skyscraper condo palaces could be built – in and among the low rise density that the current zoning law loves, without regard to actual demand for property and living abodes in the inner, or as now known, central city. On the last two terms, how quickly they may change to increase the value of land – which is, whether one likes it or not – the sole purpose of all humans and governments or other confabs of either – to increase the value of land.

 Meanwhile, to help the poor, the city mandates affordable housing, through this and that federal and state program (there are many, pick one or two) which requires the taking of corporations which raise the price of the sold goods to cover the tax – while the value of the land – because of the bizarre idea that while Americans are supposedly against global warming they keep moving to warm, even hot, cities, (do you need a list?) and thus the value of land keeps outstripping the government mandated affordability – which therefore requires either more subsidies, or can’t get built because it is just economically unfeasible.

 Meanwhile, off in the wings, somewhat, are the environmentalists who are screaming about preserving empty land in inner, um, central cities, for parks and open land and space, and environmental easements and such, which are granted, or grandfathered, or adopted, or somehow brought to bear, and so the amount of land to be developed falls, increasing the prices of the rest, and the cost of building upon it – which runs up against, alas, the limits on the numbers of units per acre – so that the developer doesn’t build unless he gets a subsidy, which is levied upon the people as another 1% sales tax – thus impoverishing the poor by another $20 bucks a month, but, with food stamps, energy, housing and child care assistance funded by the rich developers who gain enough subsidies to build housing for the ever growing middle and upper classes the poor out the $20 of their money can wait down at the welfare office with another form in hand so that they might seek the subjective largesse of far away bureaucrats who are funded by a tax on the middle class who can never get ahead.

 Other than that, my darling, the situation is simple, we shall have hope and change bandied about while not one jot or tittle is changed, lest someone not get a chair when the music stops. So, we keep playing. As a pianist, I can tell you, eventually the fingers get tired.  

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