Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Perfection is the enemy of the good

Next week on a campaign trip to Philadelphia will address an inner city housing organization about the relentless unaffordability of urban rents and home prices.

An overlooked contributing factor to out of sight urban rents and home prices are building codes and housing code enforcement practices. In most of the United States municipalities adopt in whole, or in part, the Uniform Building Code (UCC) created and maintained by a disguished group of construction, safety and legal experts. The code's construction standards are so high and exacting, it's difficult to build inexpensive yet safe homes for the lower end of the market. It's the builder's version of "Let them eat cake."

The UUC is also the building code enforcement officer's Bible. A major force propelling the rapid gentrification of major American cities displacing the poor was applying the code to older, rundown buildings. Faced with heavy fines and high cost of repairs it's easier for landlords, and municpalities owning tax defaulted properties, to demolish the properties or rehab them to rent or sell to upscale tenants. That's why gutted building shells in Harlem sell for a million dollars and up.

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