The Price of the Housing Boom

Yesterday we were driving through what we call the “West Side” of Rockford. This is the place you really wouldn’t like to drive through late at night. This the place where you wouldn’t want to  stray from the main road but just get through as fast as possible. We’ll be driving through there quite often now (it is our new route to church) and so I wanted to make some sort of lesson out of it for the girls. I pointed to the crummy run-down apartments and said that was probably a result of rent control. I explained how making drugs illegal just creates more violence and ruins more lives. Then we talked about welfare and how that has affected these places. But then my mom pointed out how it used to be that these sorts of people lived only on the “West Side.” If you were well-off and had saved enough money, you could buy a nice house in a good part of town. Now I’m always hearing stories about thefts, shout-outs, drug dealing, and the rest in the really nice neighborhoods. Why? Perhaps because the housing boom has made it so easy for people to get luxurious homes, when they haven’t really earned it. It used to be that someone growing up on the West Side had the opportunity to get a good job, keep out of gangs, and become a better and more responsible person. Banks would see that this person was responsible, had a good chunk of savings, and they would loan money to this person to buy a nice house in a nice part of town. They could leave behind the crime of their childhood and start a new life. If they really were nice people, the neighbors in this new neighborhood would be happy to see them there. They would be a benefit to the community, maybe shovel the driveway of some little old lady in the winter and mow her lawn in the summer. But what has happened during the boom? Someone could show up at the bank and ask for a loan for a huge and fancy house on the “East Side” and they’d get it. Especially if they were a minority, since the liberals had forced banks to loan out more to low-income people and minorities. So you’re living on the East Side, you’ve worked hard to get to where you are. The place where you live is a sign of who you are, that you’ve done well in the life, are responsible, etc…and someone shows up and buys the house next to you. Instead of offering to shovel your driveway they start dealing drugs. They haven’t left that behind them, they’ve brought it with them. They have loud annoying parties all night. Sometimes there might be drive-by shootings. And you spent a fortune (your own fortune too, not someone else’s) to reach this position, only to have neighbors who deal drugs.

Note: I don’t have a problem, morally, with people who deal drugs. I mean, it is just a voluntary exchange in the “free” market. I wouldn’t do it, and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do it, but I really can’t stop legitimately stop someone from doing it. The problem is that since drugs are illegal, dealing drugs comes with a very high price to those around you. Let’s say you’re dealing drugs from the house next to mine on the “East Side” and you don’t keep your agreement to some customer. They can’t take you to court. So they come shoot at your house and maybe raid it. And I’m your neighbor, I’m going to have to deal with the consequences of that as well. I didn’t choose to live next to drug-dealers, I wanted to get away from all that, and then (thanks to the government and the Fed) you can buy a house right next to me.

Thanks to the housing boom, there is no longer any distinction between those who have earned a nice house and those who have one handed to them. And this is having terrible consequences for everyone who lives in such places.

Me? Oh, I get 160 acres all to myself (and my family) and don’t have to worry much about neighbors dealing drugs. Oh, the joys of country life! 🙂

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