Letter to the Editor: Why Should the City Subsidize Rent?
Alexandrian R. Williams says he and others make sacrifices to live within their means while a vocal group demands "that they are entitled to have some of our taxes be dedicated to subsidizing rents they can’t afford."
To the Editor,
I moved to Alexandria many years ago. At the time I worked in Georgetown and would have cherished being able to walk to work. However, I could not afford housing there and no one offered to subsidize my rent. I found housing I could afford in Alexandria.
When times got tough I moved to a less expensive place. That was economic reality and remains as such for most people today. You live within your means. If rents increase, as they always do, you may have to review your financial situation if your income isn’t keeping pace. But you don’t look to government to pay a portion of the rent for the place you chose to live. And government is really just other local residents who would be paying more taxes so that you could pay less in rent.
What is the basis for expecting the City to subsidize rents for some people who would like to live in Alexandria but can’t afford to? Why should other residents who have to balance their finances on their own then have a portion of their taxes used to subsidize the rent of others? Tax dollars are scarce resources and our City has many urgent needs.
Yet in newspapers and blogs and town meetings and our City Square and our Council Chambers we find people demanding yet more and threatening major repercussions if their demands are not met. More subsidized units. And subsidizing for 30 years is not good enough; they want 40.
Can’t people acquire skills in 30 years that allow them to at least pay the rent for a place they want and can afford to live in? We are told that the turnover in many of these places is 30 percent to 40 percent every year. So when one subsidized unit gets vacated, we are expected to find a replacement tenant who also can’t afford it so we can continue to subsidize the rent? And we should do that for the next 40 years by then subsidizing many people who aren’t even born yet?
And the demand is that we should subsidize people making less than 40 percent of the average income in this area. Doesn’t that simply indicate they can’t afford to live in this area? If I make less than 40 percent of the average income of people living in Georgetown, then I probably can’t afford to live there. And I don’t expect much less demand that the City cover the portion of my rent that I can’t afford to pay.
Some argue that we want our public service employees such as teachers, firefighters, police and City staff to live in our City. That assumes they want to. Not every teacher wants to run into students’ parents each time they go grocery shopping. What control does the City have that these people will be the actual renters of the subsidized units? Why not simply pay these people more so they can live in Alexandria if they want to?
Others argue that service staff are not well paid and can’t afford to live in Alexandria. That is practical reality. Lots of people can’t afford to live in Alexandria. Most service staff at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown probably can’t afford to live within walking distance of their work so the hotel pays them enough to attract them despite whatever commute they must make.
Why are residents of Alexandria expected to subsidize rents for service staff of for-profit businesses like the Hyatt so the hotel does not have to pay people a wage sufficient to cover the cost of their commute or so they can afford to live within walking distance of their work? Let the employers subsidize rents if that’s what it takes to attract staff.
Times are tough. I have dramatically downsized my vehicle and where I live. My niece is foregoing college while she juggles three jobs to help out her family. My nephew is delaying medical treatment as he has no insurance. My brother gave up his car. The majority of us are making sacrifices to live within our means while a very vocal group demands that they are entitled to have some of our taxes be dedicated to subsidizing rents they can’t afford. While I’m struggling to pay my rent some people think it is their birthright to have me pay some of theirs too?
In Beauregard something like $100 million is being dedicated to subsidized housing for those who otherwise can’t afford to live there. It is money we would alternatively have available to maintain things like early childhood education programs and deal with overdue priorities like flood mitigation, transit and roadway improvements, replacing antiquated sewer and storm water systems, improving education, building new fire stations and schools. Schools and education for the children of people who can’t afford to live here nor pay their fair share of taxes required to provide those services. So the taxes of others will just increase all the more.
The idea of affordable housing sounds good but to many people the financial realities do not make a lot of practical sense. Before anyone votes for government generosity they ought to consider who is paying for it, how and what is being sacrificed for the cause.
R. Williams, Alexandria