Affordable Housing is Pro-Business

by jhwygirl

I don’t write about affordable housing enough, although some of you might disagree. It can’t be overstated, though, and having affordable housing in any community is key to facilitating economic growth and development.

Missoula is going to continue to have a hell of a time attracting good paying sustainable jobs until such time that it has entry level ownership opportunities for entry-level professionals. This is all the more important with the closure of Smurfit.

I mention this because the Gallatin County Commissioners will be deciding on Tuesday whether to accept a $7 million grant that would go to the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) for a housing development that will service those making 50% of the median income.

Now, apparently, the teabaggers have gotten wind of this grant – the application of which was approved by this very same county commission this past May in a 2-1 vote – and there is pressure on one of the commissioners (one who, by chance, happens to be up for election) to vote “no” on accepting the grant.

Blame it on – seriously, I’m not joking – the irrepressible (and apparently irresponsible) Scott Sales (who is hinting that running for said county commission seat just might be in his future).

It’s amazing to me how shortsighted these teabagger-types can be. Turning this grant down is going to put greater pressure on an already overpriced housing market. Not only that, it is going to make finding employees for the large number of service-related jobs harder and harder.

Because – and I know this is a hard concept for teabaggers to understand since they don’t do much more than soundbites – Montana isn’t dropping in median housing costs like a whole hell of a lot of the rest of America. We’ve been lucky – just ask any realtor – in that the housing market here in Montana (and even less so in places like Missoula and Bozeman) hasn’t been greatly affected by the downturn.

It’s pretty basic: Businesses can’t run without employees. Affordable employees. Simple concept, really.

So why does Scott Sales and his teabagger friends hate small business?

Having decent housing for these service-related jobs – jobs a community can’t do without – ensure that the market housing maintains as much semblance of affordability as is possible. This grant is for those making less than 50% of the median income.

The median income for a household in Bozeman is $45,000…which makes 50% of median a full-time $10.00/job.

Thing is – few will say that housing in Bozeman is affordable, right?

Which is probably where Scott sales comes in. It’s sheer lunacy – Scott Sales-type lunacy – to turn this money down. It’ll go somewhere (and I bet Missoula or Helena or Great Falls would be glad to take it) – and with it will go a more stable pro-business economy to whatever community gets it.

There are people and businesses in Bozeman and Gallatin County that are counting on the county commission – at least the 2 that had the pro-business common sense to approve the application – to have the pro-business common sense again to accept the grant.

That is, of course, unless everyone wants to start having to pay more for all those sorts of things that employee $10/hour employees – banks and universities and restaurants and conveniece stores and box stores and local main street stores. Hell – I’m betting the county itself employs quite a number of people that make around $10/hour.

But don’t worry Scott Sales and Gallatin County teabaggers – when the county has to hire another roadworker or police officer or office assistant, and they cost more because the cost of a basic need (housing) just went up, they’ll just pass that bill onto you – the taxpayer.


  1. Anon

    If you had any inkling of what the “teabaggers” (as you seem so prone to use insulting names) stand for, you would likely understand that they could care less if the $7mil grant came from private donations and was not forcibly taken from the tax payers for the wealth redistribution that the progressive liberals seem so fond of.

    Sure Society has a moral obligation to care for those and help those that are unable to do so for themselves. However, there is no Constitutional right or mandate that says the tax payers have to involuntarily subsidize another citizen. Several past Presidents and Congressmen have been unable to locate that section of the Constitution that allows them to (paraphrasing) “expend the money of their Constituents on objects of benevolence”- perhaps you can do better than they and can locate that section.

    • First of all – “teabaggers” – they named themselves that. They sent out those teabags to everyone. Remember that?

      Secondly – I’m not arguing any moral obligation at all. This is about business. Pro business. Business friendly. Fostering positive economic growth. It isn’t charity or subsidy when society as a whole gets the return in the form of an entire economy of positive economic growth.

      That $7 million will come back to Gallatin County tenfold in the form of economic growth and the tax revenue it generates. I mean – I bet if you proforma’d that out for 20 years, the return would astound you.

      Don’t bother lecturing me about the free market. It doesn’t exist. Never did.

      • goof houlihan

        If they could care less, why don’t they? One of the most common grammatical errors. What is meant, of course, is that they could NOT care less.

        Setting that grammatical dissonance aside, there’s the issue of the grant. Applied for by a 2-1 majority. HRDC could have gone elsewhere for sponsorship, but it would not have helped as large an area; Gallatin County versus the City of Bozeman, for example. To apply, and to then deny, demonstrates a commission or commission who lacks foresight and fortitude and the courage of his or their convictions. It cheats the people of the Gallatin who could have found a government who would have applied for, and accepted the grant.

        Finally, when did a republican congress and president press for the balanced budget amendment? Lots of people to the right and libertarian side of the equation would have supported that, but instead, we got a complete lack of self control that opened the door for the current Congress and President’s orgy of financial immolation.

        In the meantime, the Gallatin needs commissioners who protect the community and act to improve the built environment for its citizens.

  2. problembear

    for anyone locally to even consider turning down a 7 million dollar grant when carpenter’s saws are silent during this recession…..that would truly be an insane act.

  3. Anon

    You just do not get it, I see. It does not matter what the return is – the issue is using tax payer dollars. I believe that was what the majority of my post was about.

    The Tea Party people just want a return to Constitutional government – we certainly do not have that now. It’s been getting steadily worse ever since Wilson was elected. I especially include Bush in that statement. But then the progressives could not achieve their agenda if the Constitution was followed.

    I guess the Tea Party supporters should have sent rolls of Life Savers – although I doubt you would have referred to them as “lifesavers” then. Or perhaps a small piece of carpet. But it wasn’t life savers or carpet that was tossed during the Tea Party was it? The crude sexual reference is of far more use while appearing to maintain some sense of civility.

    • How does Tea People sound? Because Tea Party People is not only hard to type, it’s a real tongue-twister.

    • Nick Domitrovich

      I love how the teabaggers throw various iterations of the term “constitutional” around with no understanding of any argument as to why one thing may or may not be so. Disagreeing with something certainly doesn’t make an action unconstitutional. However, the taxation power is enumerated in the first article of the Constitution.

  4. Lizard

    it’s disheartening to see another tea person confound themselves over what was really a very simply framed post by j-girl.

    what the hell is wrong with subsidizing affordable housing? damn right it’s pro-business, because people need affordable places to live. they also need affordable health insurance, another issue the tea people have been herded together to shout down.

    but never a peep from the tea sheep about the gluttony of “defense spending.” never a peep about subsidized big-ag.

    nope, it’s only when these people catch a whiff of their precious tax dollars benefiting poor people that they bitch and bray about fiscal responsibility.

    • Anon

      A simple framed post that blasted Scott Sales and his teabagger friends. I’ve never seen Sales at a Tea Party function. But I have obviously not attended all of them. Perhaps the author attended one and saw him there – I don’t know. Maybe there is a YouTube somewhere showing him at one. Or perhaps the author is just basing that on Sales’ hard core conservative stance and making the assumption he is friendly with the teabaggers or they are friendly with him. I don’t have personal knowledge here.

      Most of the Tea Party supporters that I know are not in favor of bankrupting our country to support an illegal war started by a bunch of neocons. Bush’s spending was WAY out of control. How is it that we just passed a $600+bil defense spending bill with almost no discussion (which must have had some D votes to pass) and yet it takes an eternity to try to pass health care reform?

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with subsidizing affordable housing – it is an admirable thing to as well as being morally right. Just do it with voluntary contributions and not from forcibly extracted tax payer dollars. Obey the Constitution. Is that so hard to understand?

      • I have some personal knowledge that Scott Sales is a Tea Person.

        Sarah Palin is a Tea Person – one of the top-tier Tea People – and I’m pretty sure she supports the war. Any war. Whatever war. Hell – she probably doesn’t care, therefore there’s no need to know anything more.

        Don’t try and frame conservatives and Tea People as one in the same. They’re not.

        • Lizard

          i think anon may identify with a subset of the tea movement that joined the bandwagon when the corporate megaphones from fox to msnbc were feeding this astro-turf movement with blind praise and blind derision.

          the tea movement is actually not as dumb and monolithic as the corporate megaphones have portrayed it to be.

          the problem is any movement in our current system gets commodified and exploited.

      • JC

        If you don’t think the constitution is being “obeyed” you’re free to raise legal challenge.

        It seems that your and other tea bagger’s disaffection with current politics arises not so much with policies and spending, as it does with your inability to force your agenda through the court system or congress.

        After all, if it were a simple matter of the constitution not being “obeyed” then our system of law must be corrupt. And if the system that our constitution outlined is too corrupt to self-regulate, then the only resort is revolution. Of course, the other conclusion would be that the constitution is too imperfect to work in today’s society, and thus needs to be amended, or rewritten.

        Are you prepared to lead a revolution, armed or not, to defend the constitution, Anon? To go along with one who will? To fight for a strengthening of provisions to limit corporate personhood?

        Or is all of this tea party just a bunch of self-congratulatory noise intended to do nothing more than impede the status quo?

        • Lizard

          To fight for a strengthening of provisions to limit corporate personhood?

          now there’s a fight worth fighting.

          anyway, affordable housing makes me think about the housing bubble, which makes me think about the banks and how few mortgages have been readjusted, which leads me to the role of our central bank under the tyranny of greenspan and bernake, who inflated the bubble with low interest rates, then did nothing when warnings started trickling in as far back as 4 years ago.

          as far as movements go, move your money is a nationwide call to disinvest from big banks and move your money to local institutions.

  5. Big Swede

    Yea, I’m a giver.

  6. bloodyknife

    Touch’, Swede, skewered on their own epee.

  7. goof houlihan

    Two republican county commissioners, both responsible men with reasoned decisions for their vote, voted to accept the grant.

  8. problembear

    that is good news for everyone goof.

  9. goof houlihan

    It’s work. I think they’re beginning to see every job counts, pb. We are back to the mid 80s, or worse, in Montana. Where a new Perkins being constructed had 75 people waiting in line for two laborer jobs.

    • JC

      It feels worse than the mid-80’s. We had something like 600 people apply for 2 jobs at Macys earlier this year. Well, all 55 employees just lost their jobs today, as the store closes up its “underperforming” local downtown location.

      I was in Bozeman in the mid 80’s, Goof, working construction. It was bleak, but survivable. Remember all those 4-plexes starting to spring up out in Belgrade? There was a move to provide some affordable housing in the Bozeman area, and the developers decided that would be a good way to go.

      Of course, they needed a place to launder money, too… but that’s another story.

  10. ladybug

    Might one ask why housing is so unaffordable? Overproduction should create falling asset prices. What’s holding prices up in a glut of unoccupied housing wage-earner cannot afford? Is building more housing really the best long-term answer? I suppose it’s the best we can come up with.

  11. problembear

    your estimate is about the same as mine goof- although i have been talking to respected business people who think it could be two years of bad stuff or more. one guy predicts a 50% kill rate for small businesses in montana.

    i know one thing. when you drive into the small towns of montana and look around (st regis, Conrad, etc) the kill off has already been severe for the past 5 years for them – guess it is the big cities turn now. just hope the safety nets can cope until money starts flowing again.

  12. sopko

    Tea baggers- radical right

    New Party- radical left

    Let’s just simplify things and use these designations when talking about any person or idea that doesn’t fit your paradigm.

  13. Chuck

    May I respectfully raise the point that the proliferation of affordable housing developers and the influx of grant money to subsidize the non profit land purchases actually contribute to the bubble and keep land prices unaffordable in Missoula. This is a discussion that needs to be had before we keep throwing money at a decades long failed effort to provide affordable housing. We need to have strategies for a dramatic reduction in speculation on land in town.
    The bailout of the banks holding the paper on non performing assets in Missoula allows bankers to hang onto properties forever without reducing the price and therefore reducing the overall land cost in Missoula. Case(s) in point:
    Homeword’s purchase of the old Liberty Lanes property was completed at an inflated price only because they were subsidized. If the Liberty Lanes property were to have been allowed to sit on the market until the price was reduced the land cost may have been 1 million dollars less therebye bringing down appraised values for similar properties.
    If The Burns Street Commons condo project would have been allowed to go into foreclosure and the bankers were forced to take a bath we may very well have seen these units sell for a 40% discount and still be affordable for working folks. A market rate reduction on these condo units would again provide comparable sales information for appraisers and brokers perhaps creating an immediate reduction in cost for unsold condos all over town.
    The proposed affordable housing project at the foreclosed and vacant racquet club on East Broadway is seeking 5 million dollars in subsidy and the proposal is sailing through(I think that is correct). This property should have been allowed to sit until the banks reduced the price enough 40-50- 60 % whatever it took to attract buyers. Instead, the banks carried it , lobbied for a bailout and will they will be saved by the taxpayer. My guess is the bank will profit handsomely on your money on a deal that should have helped reduced the cost of land in Missoula. Instead this property will probably sell at a subsidized inflated retail price, will continue to artificially increase the appraised value of all comparable property there bye making land prices in Missoula less affordable.
    This is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset land values in Missoula to bring them more into line with wages. Let’s quit bailing out the banks and speculators with your money on properties that they have paid too much for. Why aren’t we having the discussion?

  14. Chuck

    Let me add another timely example of market driven property costs. Macy’s recently sold a St. Louis distribution center for 2 million dollars. They had it listed a couple years earlier for 12.7 million bucks. Before we race to give the speculators your money in subsidies and other giveaways for the Macy’s building in Missoula , please note that Macy’s seem to be very motivated sellers who understand market economics. Wouldn’t a huge reduction in property costs for this building give a major retailer a great start on creating a sustainable business?

  15. problembear

    good comments chuck.

    this is one of the reasons i railed against the big bank bailout bill from the beginning ever since paulson proposed (ordered congress to do it) and bush signed it into law. everyone else was saying we had to do it……

    but look who benefited – certainly not main street or workers. only big banks benefit.

    it props up false property values and essentially stops the free market from finding the bottom and separating the weeds from the good crops. what this country’s economy needed was to burn the weeds out and quit rewarding bad behavior. what we have done now is to grow an even healthier crop of weeds. it would have been painful but at least we could have had some opportunities for smaller busiinesses to grow their markets and hire people. we are at a stand still now. i see 50% of montana’s small businesses failing over the next year or so.

    ridiculous and absurd world.

  16. Chuck

    PB might even be low with his 50% failure rate. In many cases these businesses have never had earnings from operations and the real estate was their only value. They have mortgaged these assets to the hilt and without cash to service the overwhelming debt they have saddled themselves with they are running out of options.
    Somebody needs to track the application and award of the 1 million dollar ” loan” to Neville Log Homes that MAEDC helped arrange and the companies promises to add 40 to 60 jobs. I’d like to see what the owners did with the first big draw on the taxpayer’s loan proceeds.

  17. problembear

    in the interest of enhancing my pariah standings around here i cannot help but notice that once the free and easy grant money dries up, the maedc seems to disappear….

    lots of talk two years ago by king etc about doing something with the bonner mill has certainly gone cold and no one seems to even ask about it anymore.

    small business is hurting around here and it is time to get some people on the job of economic development who have a greater sense of urgency that matches the angst of our main street merchants and their employees….

  18. ladybug

    King et al. fuels the problem locally the same way TARP bailouts have nationally. The banking/mortgage-real estate-lumber (and other building materials)-construction cartel is bleeding taxpayers to prevent further erosion in asset price. Affordable housing would surround us if markets were allowed to adjust price to meet demand. Instead of funding the future, they’re “fighting the last war,” one they will inevitably lose, while taking us down with them. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Downtown retail and service businesses put up with this made-for-Hollywood fiction.




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