In reply to Barbara Regenspan’s December 2020 Letter to the Editor: "We Have the Wisdom to Interrupt Business-as-Usual."
Amongst continued demands that our government “provide us” with more stuff, namely green energy, livable wages, and universal healthcare, I think we should judge the possible outcomes by the one activist policy mentioned that has been aggressively implemented in Ithaca: Affordable housing.
Despite a bevy of acts taken by Ithaca politicians, including mandates on affordable housing, an affordable housing fund, legislative bodies taking an active role in the planning, layout and development of new construction, and zoning that favors high density development, the cost of living continues to increase in what is already one of the least affordable places to live nationwide.
Home-ownership is made difficult or impossible for lower- and middle-income families in Tompkins County by devastatingly high property taxes. Looking at realtor.com, the cost of property taxes for many homes approaches that of a mortgage! The high taxes likely suppress new home development and cause many would be Ithacans to move elsewhere.
The overall result: People have voted with their feet as fewer homes are owner-occupied and the population in Tompkins County has barely grown, or has possibly shrunk, according to 2018 Census estimates. Housing has been and remains grossly unaffordable.
If Ithaca’s policies aren’t evidence enough, consider the decades long results of the Big City mandating housing at a specific price and restricting new development. If you enjoy spending upwards of $1,000 on a bedroom that shares a kitchen with six other students and at least one cat, Ithaca and New York City have you covered.
I don’t want a bureaucracy that moves with the alacrity and grace of the glaciers that formed Cayuga lake to be in charge of healthcare, green energy, or affordable housing. After more than a decade living in Ithaca I no longer believe that the lack of affordability is because we haven’t mandated it hard enough or legislated it into existence. Quite the opposite: It would benefit Ithacans if we decrease property taxes and reduce the influence of bureaucratic dictate on new development and apply these lessons to other areas of government. We would be the wiser to do so.