By BRYAN Gray
The opinions stated in this column are solely those of the author and not of the Davis Clipper.
Don’t tell Sen. Mike Lee, but there is something even more ghoulish, more threatening, and more likely to erode community values than the Affordable Care Act. Even worse, a government shutdown won’t quiet the monster.
I can say it in one word: Apartments. And if I really want to make communities wince, I’ll expand the term: High-density apartments.
The apartment issue is a priority for many voters in the upcoming municipal elections for mayors and councilmembers. In city after city, I hear politicians claiming that they are opposed to continued apartment construction in their bailiwick.
“We already have too many”... “Let other cities take their share”... “We need to focus on building neighborhoods with affordable single-family housing”... “More apartments will lead to traffic congestion and reduction in the quality of life.”
I can’t blame the politicians. They are simply reflecting the view of constituents who rail against apartments as a threat to public safety.
In college towns, most people agree that apartments are necessary, but want them located in specific areas. In other non-college cities, apartments are frowned upon as a magnet for trouble. (In my own condominium complex, homeowners are angry over the developer being granted the right to promote rental units. “The developer doesn’t care about property values,” said a neighbor. “All he cares about is grubbing for fast money.”)
Sorry, but I’m not stirred up about apartments. I am rational; I understand that apartments are necessary and a free market will decide when they reach oversaturation.
It is elitist and arrogant to paint apartment dwellers as low-income, dirty, and less-substantial neighbors. Granted, renters may not always take care of a unit as well as if they owned the place and they may not feel as if they have a long-term stake in the neighborhood.
But economics demand that a sizeable number of men and women are better off renting than buying. They might not have the income or savings to make a down payment. They might be looking at a job or location transfer in the near future. They just might not want the bother of home ownership.
None of these reasons make a renter less desirable as a neighbor. In fact, I’d much rather have as a neighbor a man or woman trying to save money than I would live next to Sen. Mike Lee who walked away from his mortgage, leaving the bank and the taxpayer to clean up the bad loan.
I’m especially humored by disdain for apartments after returning last week from a vacation in New York City. Since you can’t touch a home or condo for less than $1.5 million, apartment living is the norm. A one-bedroom apartment in a middle-class section of Manhattan can easily cost $2,500 a month.
Obviously, Utah is a different market than the Big Apple. But from my vantage point, I see nice apartments being constructed, often with an array of modern lifestyle amenities. I also don’t see a huge number of vacancies.
In a perfect world, we would all hand our children a check for $350,000 and advise them to purchase their own home. Until that occurs, we should view apartments not as a blight, but as an optional housing environment Р no more and certainly, no less.