Washington Post publishes EHI’s letters on consequences of failures of housing planning and supply

The Washington Post printed the following letter by EHI’s President, Tom Loftus, in April 2013, in response to numerous recent Post articles on housing issues.

Government’s failure to plan for housing is hurting people

Problems described in the April 22 front-page article “Big firms scooping up home bargains,” about Wall Street firms outbidding individuals for homes in recovering real estate markets (such as this one), and in the same day’s Metro article “Budget cuts threaten to upend Fairfax man’s fragile existence” are aggravated by the failure of most area jurisdictions to plan for, and permit, enough housing for their workforces.

That failure also worsens the effects of gentrification in Alexandria, the closing of the District’s public housing list, homelessness and declining affordability in and around the city. The resulting inadequate housing supply hits low- and moderate-income people hardest.

Major potential sources of new housing in Northern Virginia are being planned along the new Silver Line to Dulles Airport and eastern Loudoun County. But the local governments that ultimately will make the decisions about these communities have resisted allowing enough housing for future workers in those areas.

There are many documented success stories of communities near transit that are predominantly residential. New residents generally are not a significant drain on local government finances, as some officials fear.

Thomas A. Loftus, Vienna

The writer is president of the Equitable Housing Institute.

The published version is available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/governments-failure-to-plan-for-housing-is-hurting-people/2013/04/28/b169a93e-adc5-11e2-b240-9ef3a72c67cc_story.html. It appeared in the Post's print edition on April 29, 2013, at page A14. 

In 2010, the Washington Post printed the following letter by EHI's President, Tom Loftus, summarizing EHI's position that the imbalance between jobs and housing units in the Washington area is a major cause of the escalating rents there. 

Regarding the Dec. 21 front-page article "Region's tenants caught in a clamp":

A major reason for the 22 percent jump in rents (inflation-adjusted) over the past decade in this area is the serious imbalance of jobs and housing units. That imbalance is long-standing, worsening and strongly related to government policies. A proper balance generally is one housing unit for every 1.5 jobs in the community, as determined by the American Planning Association. Yet local governments still seek growth that would produce an even greater disparity between jobs and available housing.

For example, Fairfax County has had among the largest jobs/housing imbalances in the region. Yet, last summer its Board of Supervisors approved plans for a greatly expanded Tysons Corner, with approximately four jobs per household. The other communities along the new Metrorail corridor, all the way to the Loudoun County line, are projected to have even greater jobs and housing imbalances, according to George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis.

Most other area governments pursue similar policies, which can increase local government revenue. But they cause increased poverty, homelessness, suburban sprawl, extreme commutes, clogged highways, fuel consumption and environmental problems, as well as housing market instability. Area governments should consistently promote a proper jobs/housing balance in the community.

Thomas A. Loftus, Vienna

The writer is president of the Equitable Housing Institute.

The published version is available at:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/25/AR2010122501779.html. It appeared in the Post's print edition on Dec. 26, 2010, at page A26.