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The Press Gets It Right On COAH (well, not really)

It took opposition from their friends at the Sierra Club to convince the editors at the Asbury Park Press that the replacement for COAH that Trenton has concocted is perhaps even worse than the original.  I guess the Democrats and their liberal allies at the Press are having some trouble juggling the demands of their affordable-housing constituents with those of their open-space constituents.  (Of course both sides are completely comfortable with seizing your property and using it to serve their own purposes.) 

In their Sunday editorial “Adhere to Mount Laurel housing mandate” the writer points out how the dishonest criteria for “buildable land” that includes highway medians and college campuses forces towns to overbuild on truly buildable land.  The Press actually went so far as to propose what I believe to be the correct solution:

One answer would be to put nothing in it’s place.  The Mount Laurel court rulings mandating that municipalities do not discriminate are not going anywhere.  How about allowing municipalities to make their own decisions in regard to housing?  Let towns shape their zoning the way they want in regard to housing types, location and density.  Those that violate the court ruling by discriminating against low-income housing could face punishment by the state, such as a reduction in state aid.  Such towns also would be vulnerable to litigation from housing developers.”

The last sentence is important.  I don’t have a serious problem with the original Mount Laurel decision.  Overzealous zoning boards routinely unfairly limit what property owners can do with their land, such as sell it in small parcels to people of modest income.  Builders should be able to sue towns that unreasonably restrict what may be done with people’s property. 

It is the politically motivated intrusion of government power into the housing market in the form of zoning laws, tax credits, forced relaxation of loaning standards, bank and mortgage bailouts, etc etc etc that is creating all the distortions in the first place.  The Federal Reserve is doing everything it can to prop up house prices because if they were allowed to fall to the actual market price, all their bailed-out banks would be bankrupt again.  Their policy of  quantitative easing counterfeiting in order to sustain insanely low interest rates are destroying the value of our savings and paychecks and creating distortions in the economy that are so massive that they could lead us to catastrophe.  At the same time the COAH people are telling us that housing is not affordable and we need to pay for houses to be built for low income people.  The Coastal Monmouth Plan even calls for us to subsidize housing for artists, school teachers, and government workers!  Why doesn’t COAH just tell the federal government to stop inflating housing prices?  If they would just allow the market to operate, houses would be affordable for everybody.   

The writer of the Press editorial correctly points out some of the problems with COAH but in the end states: “The COAH experiment may have failed, but the principle of developing housing for a variety of income levels across New Jersey remains valid”.  Doesn’t he (or she) notice that the market produces completely on it’s own, without government dictate, no-frills, low-cost cars, washing machines, cell phones, computers, clothes, furniture and food?  Housing (and health care and education) would be available at low cost too if the government would only stop interfering.  

The free market has produced a variety of housing choices since biblical times.  Despite what they think, the Trenton politicians are not smarter than the market.  Even with the best of intentions they can’t possibly know what kind of houses should be built where and in what numbers.  And since when has that crowd displayed the best of intentions regarding anything?

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