letters to the editor

‘Sound reasons’ told to nix Choto Landing housing

There were sound reasons to oppose Dominion Group’s plans for Choto Landing along busy Northshore Drive.

The plan was unwise from the beginning; resistance was foreseeable; the project should have been nixed at the re-zoning stage. Rather than parroting salacious gossip about the opposing neighborhoods and calling it “embarrassing,” it might be wise to ponder why so many of us vehemently opposed yet another such government-subsidized project in an area already experiencing explosive growth. 

Start with this grim fact: the United States is over $30 trillion in debt. Irresponsible government spending inflates the cost of everything, including housing. This government-caused inflation hurts people of more modest income most.

The federal government creates money from thin air, and then dangles millions before large developers — with puppet strings attached to manipulate the local housing market.

Add this false premise for the project: One of the stated congressional rationales for the tax credit scheme Dominion Group sought (LIHTC) is that the housing market has “failed” to provide quality, low-income housing. The market is not failing to supply but instead: the market is responding to conditions, which include the degenerating conditions in neighborhoods where cheaper housing could be available.  Stated bluntly: The same failing government officials who hamper states’ and municipalities’ power to enforce criminal law and who orchestrate the demise of our cities, concocted this and similar schemes that disrupt the private housing market; they induce the destructive and corrupting forces that compel people to escape lower-income neighborhoods to the suburbs. 

Then, they create billions we do not have, for developers they favor, to impel the “change” they push.They will claim to want to help lower income people find a good place to live.

Rather than feed money we don’t have to a crony developer and landlord, why not:

- Make higher-crime neighborhoods safe with increased police patrolling and crime-fighting; make Knoxville the most hostile-to-drug-dealers; shut down gangs; spend the money to hire all the police and deputies necessary;

- Likewise, stop thefts of construction materials from work sites in those neighborhoods;

- Stop vandalism — prosecute any criminals who make neighborhoods undesirable places to invest in or improve property, to live and to raise children; make such neighborhoods as safe as the suburbs;

- Expedite evictions of tenants who trash their rented properties or who stop paying rent; it may take several months to eject a non-paying or vandalizing tenant, causing investors, landlords and property managers to avoid that rental market altogether — raising the cost for responsible people;

- Clean up neighborhood schools of threats, both from delinquent students and from outside the school; demand performance to reading, writing, math, science and history standards at their grade level; make it safe for children to attend their neighborhood school and even to walk home — like it once was.

That we cannot now declare our commitment to make lower-income neighborhoods such desirable places to live is not only tragic: this failure is what should deeply embarrass our public officials and self-anointed community activists.

Government: do your job and you will see lower-cost housing blossom. Investors will buy, renovate and maintain formerly deteriorating rental houses. People will buy, fix up and enjoy owning their own formerly deteriorating home. 

Not all the above responsibilities are solely local government’s; local officials could, however, lead the way in seeing that government performs its duties to make neighborhoods safe and clean and to improve our schools.  These are observations from a few in the Northshore/Choto area.

Kevin Desmond and Mike Mollenhour, West Knox Co.