A couple of years ago The Family Foundation ruffled some Richmond feathers when we stepped in and blocked legislation that was intended to help localities clean up "blighted properties" but was written in such a way that decimated personal property rights. After a few weeks of saber rattling we were able to go to the negotiating table and come up with a solution. To avoid such confrontations from happening again, I was asked to serve on a working group of the Virginia Housing Commission. While most of the issues that come before the group are outside the legislative scope of The Family Foundation, the conversations and debates that take place are often fascinating (which, sadly, reveal the policy nerd in me as well). During our meeting today, I was struck by one particular presentation that was simply astonishing.
In discussing the demise of HB 960, legislation this year that would have allowed localities to create and manage funds for low income housing, testimony by one local government representative revealed a philosophy that seems more suited for Moscow than even Fairfax, the locality represented. We were told that one of the reasons the bill died was concerns that localities would use proffers, the tax paid by developers to localities to cover costs of infrastructure (at least that's what I thought it was for), to help fund the low income housing grants instead of using the money for its intent.
That's when the rep from Fairfax got up and said, "We'd be opposed to any amendment that limits our use of proffers, because we've been doing that [diverting proffers to low income housing grants] for 20 years." She didn't stop there. She went on to explain that, in Fairfax, if a developer wants to get a zoning permit for certain projects, "They know they have to make a contribution to the low income housing fund."
So, essentially, Fairfax county is not just diverting proffer funds, they are also extorting money from developers!
And, as is true for all central planning/social engineering, such schemes are often one of the causes of the problem they seek to solve. In this case, the lack of low income housing in part is because the central planners are forcing developers to fork over money to the low income fund, thus forcing developers to charge more for the housing they develop, which in turn denies access to that housing to low and moderate income Virginians, which causes the low and moderate income Virginians to turn to the government for help, which is happy to help because they are extorting money from the developers!
And round and round we go and where we stop is socialism and bankruptcy. Then, we'll all be homeless.
(Oh, and for those of you in NOVA that want your taxes raised to pay for new roads, perhaps you could start by demanding that your localities use the proffer funds for what its intended!)