As effective as government is at addressing most issues, it only makes sense that once the real estate market finally starts to slow down, that's when they decide it's a good time to try to do something about unaffordable housing.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and top legislative leaders on Tuesday authorized a study of ways to promote affordable housing in Washington.So let me see if I have the Realtor™ logic/strategy straight... 20% year on year gains are a good great thing as long as the population continues to willingly jump into the market feet first. 6% x (expensive houses) x (loads of buyers) = Gold Rush. If inventory begins to build and sales slow, first try to deny it, explain it away, and keep everyone convinced that everything is golden with slogans like "Home Prices Never Go Down!©" and "Get On The Equity Ladder!©" However, eventually when your tactics start to fail and the sales slowdown becomes undeniable, you realize that 6% x (extremely expensive houses) x (very few buyers) = Trade In The BMW For A Saturn. So, now it's time to run to the government, claiming that you care deeply about how unaffordable housing has become, when really you desperately hope that prices stay high and the trickle of buyers turns back into a raging river.
The governor, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, asked the state Affordable Housing Advisory Board to convene a bipartisan group to recommend legislation for the 2007 session.
"In some communities, even middle-income working families are finding it difficult to find affordable homes," the leaders said in a joint letter to the Washington Realtors, which requested the task force.
"A balanced approach is necessary to develop an effective response to this growing social and economic problem."
The Realtors said recently that housing affordability has fallen to the lowest point in 12 years*, with median home prices in some Puget Sound communities topping $500,000. Statewide, home prices increased 19 percent in the past year, the group said.
That might be a bit abstract, but I think it's a fairly accurate portrayal. What do you think? The whole thing seems like an exercise in futility to me though, because it's not as if the government can somehow force housing to become more affordable—and even if they could, I highly doubt that they would since it would mean a dramatic reduction in the "value" of homes that people suicide-financed their way into in the last few years.
Basically what you have here is the Realtors trying to look good by appearing to care about "affordable housing" (when really all they want is more buyers), and the government trying to look good by appearing to "do something" (when they are really unable to and wouldn't even if they could).
*Fun fact: Housing in Seattle was not less affordable 12 years ago than it is today. Rather, the WCRER's data on affordability only goes back 12 years. A more accurate statement would have been "...housing affordability has fallen to the lowest point in the 12 year span that such data has been collected."
(Associated Press, Seattle P-I , 08.08.2006)