Why Subsidize Challenged Populations?


I don’t have the time, right now, to dig into it, but something’s been nagging at me concerning the HousingWorks RI study claiming that Rhode Island is going to lack affordable housing options in light of demographic projections.  According to a table on the first page of text in the report, HousingWorks projects an 11.5% loss of population in the mid-to-late-career, higher-earning range of the population (45-64) by 2025, which will combine with an 8.1% increase of those aged 20-44 and a 39.6% increase of those aged over 65.

The insinuated need is for the state to, one way or another, subsidize housing for those groups, but perhaps we should be asking different questions.

Let’s start with public policy of the last decade as a sort of baseline, meaning that we accept the policies that brought us recent shifts as the status quo and are considering policy changes moving forward.  And let’s accept the premise that housing is going to be a problem for early-career families and retired households.

How much sense does it make to push policies like tax exemption of retirement income and tax-based loan forgiveness programs for recent college graduates?  Putting these approaches together increases the tax burden on the segment of the population that’s disappearing from the state (and which we’re assuming can better afford the housing that we actually have) while subsidizing the segments that are already projected to increase (and which we’re assuming are going to have difficulty making ends meet).  Add to that the increased tax and cost-of-living burden that the government may impose in order to address the housing projections.

To some extent, this is the dilemma of helping people while not encouraging choices that increase our social and economic challenges, and a fully considered policy would require some balancing of benefits versus costs.  But even if one concedes that smart policy makers could make the right call, given the chance, which is a point that I absolutely do not concede, our local conversation is nowhere near considering both sides.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    The Report seems to ignore a law of nature, “supply & demand”. If population is falling and incomes are falling, or stagnate, the cost of housing should reduce, Is there an assumption that only new “first class” housing will do?. An unaddressed problem is Boston’s explosion. With housing prices soaring there, it is not unreasonable to think Rhode Island might become a suburb of Boston, rail line is already there, as are the highways. Has anyone thought of a monorail down the Rte. 95 right of way? High tech is engulfing Rte 495, that is only minutes away. Could 295, with all that empty dirt, be next? Fidelity did it, but that doesn’t seem to have been much of a magnet.

    • Mike Rollins

      I’ve personally been thinking for many years about the idea of using interstate highway rights of way as routes for parallel maglev, or similar next generation public transportation options.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Since the National Defense Highway Act of 1956 (which funded Route 95) required that all bridges be high enough to clear a missile truck, and we now have few missile trucks, let’s use that space for a monorail. Perhaps that oft remembered “huge” military budget of the 1950’s wasn’t so bad, it gave us the Interstate Highways and student loans (NDSL).

  • D. S. Crockett

    It’s all about the securing the vote. Leftist, progressives, are better at it then their so-called conservative opposition. Sorry, that’s a joke because they are all in it together, taxpayers not withstanding.

  • Mike678

    As the population increases faster than jobs (automation, illegal immigration, etc.)–and as the jobs become so complex that they, in effect, exclude those less inclined towards good choices, education or just less capable, we will see more and more calls to support those that cannot–or will not–compete in society. The calls for increased min wages is counter-productive and will exclude those willing to work for lower wages. But is a response to a growing problem.