People who believe in power as a solution to social problems are arrayed against free market proposals such as my “your shantytown is my housing free trade zone” idea enunciated in the last mayoral campaign and partly endorsed by a candidate.
The problem with a shantytown zone for homeless people in which they can attain legal title to small plots of land on which they have built their shacks is grave; I am rejecting their moral premise.
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
The moral concept of the majority in Chattanooga, even the Christian majority, is that the homeless problem must be solved within the power framework and not outside of it. It must be solved within the strictures of regulation and control, not in an open expanse of the free market where grace, liberty and service operate to give opportunity to all.
My proposal envisions homeless people being able to settle on a piece of land owned by the city, live on it for 2 1/2 years, and in that time stay on that piece of property and obtain legal title to it. The plot becomes an asset the former homeless person can sell or trade — or continue to live upon. On the property he builds a shack to his own liking apart from any control, guideline, rule or code.
Homemade. Private. Daring. Dangerous. Risky.
I won’t right now answer numerous questions that come up about how this project could happen. For example, what about latrines? What about washstands or septic? What about crime? The idea of a housing free-trade zone is worth considering because it is premised on a correct judgment on human nature and rightly accounts for the damage regulations bring to the housing market.
Real affordable housing
The homeless people live at the absolute bottom of the housing market. However, because of regulation and the need to appease the high aesthetic and social standards of the powerful people in Chattanooga, a shantytown / free trade zone cannot be allowed under any circumstance. Wall quality, fire resistance, roof quality, environmental controls, setbacks — these must control. No habitation for a human being can be allowed if it doesn’t meet standards under Ordinance 12600, and thus require at least a few thousand dollars to build. http://www.chattanooga.gov/images/citymedia/publicworks/ordinances/2012_Adopted_Codes.pdf
This permissions hierarchy eviscerate of the bottom of the market in Chattanooga and in many other markets such as San Diego. Because people in the city are committed to the religion of power and not the religion of Christianity, we do not tolerate the idea of people living in anything that ugly and that doesn’t meet our standards.
We want to see things that are high-quality, rich, beautifully designed, and able to be created with the snap of the fingers thanks to the existence of bank credit and the lending sector, which serves the rich and helps maintain centralization in the state and the place of those I call “the good people.”
We are intolerant of the poor, and cannot abide even the very idea of a shack built by a homeless person digging from construction site dumpsters for boards, tarp, bricks and nails. We cannot abide substandard housing. We cannot abide run-down tenement buildings, boarding houses or cheap substandard flats. We are indignant at the look of the poor, and look upon their shabby scenery as the result of moral inferiority.
No shacks in our town
That is the essence of the religion of power. When we reject the gospel’s admonition about looking out for the widow and the orphan and seeing the poor in prison and the hungry who needs food, we are told to think differently about how people live, especially the poor.
The power religion of our day excuses sins of executive agencies, abusive congresses, illegal activity of prosecutors, murderous cops and the like. They are excused because they have power, which we worship.
We reject Matthew 25 and Christ’s words about serving the least among us, we look upon poverty and consider homeless people, begging, shabby neighborhoods with disdain, distrust and hatred. We think somehow that their very existence demeans us and reduces the River City as a wonderful place to live.
Because we believe in the religion of the power, the powerful are good and the poor are wicked. That’s what happens when we reject the ethical claims made by God through the Bible at church. When we reject God, we adopt the reigning idol. And that is: The powerful man, the powerful machine.
Chattanoogans forbid the existence of the bottom of the housing market, and accept the political status quo that stifles it. Politicians such as Andy Berke play them by touting the concept of “affordable housing.” In requiring developers to set aside cheaper flats for low-income people, we salve the conscience and we make a show of caring for the poor, as good Democrats and Republicans do.
But because we forbid a free market in housing, we seem so care only for the powerful and the rich and influential. Their rules must always control. Their authority should never be challenged. Their hegemony must never be gainsayed. Their aesthetic concepts shall not denied.
Giving homeless stake in city
Their control over the building of structures should reign even if it means we have hundreds of homeless people in Chattanooga who cannot find a way to have any personal property stored and secured because they cannot build their own structures without fear of a bulldozer or the cops.
The ability to secure private possessions is a big problem facing a homeless person. Until he can store property securely, he cannot accumulate and cannot traffic and trade. He feels he must always stay awake and be watchful for his possessions, and cannot really go far from where he has stowed his stuff in his bags and knapsacks.
My concept is to capitalize the homeless, bypasses these authority structures and create a context of liberty under law, tolet the homeless capitalize themselves by obtaining title to land they can then sell or trade.
Shall we help the mighty, or the lowly?
My idea is that we have a place where the city gives away land after a homeless person has dwelled on it for 2 ½ years and build a shack of some kind on it and lived in it and improved it. The homeless person uses scraps from the myriad construction sites all around the city where tens of thousands of dollars a perfectly good wood and product are thrown out.
The problem I identify is among God’s people, who are required to defy the religion of power and to be charitable and to think of the least of the people in society.
Because reform in this area should start with them. Judgment begins at the house of God and I think that the judgment is already there and is visible in the general paralysis of the Christian church all across Chattanooga. If Christian people do not do what God orders, the judgment against them is that they cannot see what they have to do, and do not do what they have to do.
As awesome these judgments are, they are largely invisible. People are insensible of their pain. I would look at zoning as a type of judgment against a free society as required by biblical ethics. Zoning is a judgment against which a Christian person who loves God’s freedom and liberty should be consistently angry. It infringes on innocent, harmless, non-tortious acts of non-criminal citizens.
But zoning is not viewed as a judgment. It is part of a neutral public policy, outside either God’s judgment or blessing. Many see protection in zoning, as a potential benefit, allowing them to maintain stagnant neighborhoods and inflated property values, with the hidden price being the creation of homelessness as an unintended structural result of policy.
A concept worth exploring in Chattanooga: Adverse possession. The taking over by homeless people of abandoned buildings, then claiming under law that they are the owners. The doctrine is out of common law, and holds that use and occupancy create legal possession.
I explore this concept briefly in an interview with David Alan Carmichael on the David Tulis show at 92.7 NoogaRadio.