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Affordable Housing 'Outside the Box'



The inclusion of two seemingly unconnected articles in the July 18 North Coast Journal invites comment. In "Apollo Plus Fifty" Barry Evans recounts how when the moon landing project was started, "virtually everything that made it all possible didn't exist." No one knew what it would take to put a man on the moon. The equivalent of $112 billion was spent on a vast undertaking of unforeseen challenges.

Then, in the article "Outside the Box," we learn that the Humboldt County Planning Department intends to seek voter approval for the county to start a new operation to "build or acquire low-rent multi-family units without the need to turn a profit."

To doubters who believe that the government has no place building or owning housing units, we can point out that the government is already in the housing market. In addition to known subsidized housing, we have college dormitory units, which house many of the country's 2 million incoming freshmen, and military barracks, which supply housing for more than 1 million men and women in uniform in the U.S. Locally, Humboldt State University houses about 2,100 new and transferring students.

In Austria, 62 percent of the general population of Vienna live in government-owned housing. Starting in the 1870s, their government made the decision to get involved in the housing market. Rents today in Vienna are one-quarter those of other major cities around the world. Because ordinary people spend less of their income on rent, every citizen of Vienna benefits from a richer society.

Providing housing for working-class people does not involve rocket science. Major technological breakthroughs aren't required to create low-income housing. It is a matter of national will. If it were considered important, it would get done.

Fred Weis, Arcata

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