The city council for the City of Des Moines continues to seek housing sizes that will not allow diversity to thrive in the city. Not only is the council restoring minimum-sized housing requirements to the proposed zoning rules, the council has scheduled a vote to finalize the proposed zoning plan just weeks before an election that will place at least one new person on the council.
What does a larger house mean? Sure it brings in more money to the government. At least in the near run it could bring in more money, assuming tax breaks do not wipe out the gain. But what pressures on the city budget will occur as the new construction and new developments age? What consequences to other property and people will come from minimum-sized housing requirements? What infringements upon individuals’ choices for their own living style and budgets will the new requirements mean? These are questions that need to be considered.
Objections to the City’s proposal have been raised based on cost of construction. Here are some other issues that have been raised in private discussions:
Operating Costs: How much does it cost to heat or cool a larger house? How much gasoline will be used going to stores and parks because of lack of easily-accessed businesses in a community?
Maintenance Costs: How does the city plan to cover the cost of repairs throughout the years, not just the construction of new sewers, water mains, and other infrastructure?
Housing Consequences: What happens if a recession hits? No, make that when a recession hits. How are people whose incomes do not rise as quickly as taxes afford to keep up with a house that is larger than they need or want? What happens to the neighborhood in ten or twenty years, when the large houses won’t sell because they do not connect to any place the potential future buyers want to go? Will the houses be abandoned? Turned into rental properties, either short-term or long-term? Converted into apartments?
Non-housing Consequences: Will runoff from greater roof area add to water contamination? Will Public Works just acquire as many double-plow snow removal vehicles as possible then complain that some of the older neighborhoods just have too narrow streets as justification for ripping up private property every year? Sure, it can be cheaper to have uniformity and consistency, but is that what we want for our communities?
Hey, it’s just a zoning plan. It will give the city more money. There is no problem with that, right? No need to worry about individuals wanting to express themselves, the City is not dictating the color of the houses, right? What if a resident would rather have a smaller house in a mostly residential neighborhood then go on long trips, every person has enough money to buy a big house and travel, right?
How much authority for what should be individual options and choices are we willing to concede to government?