Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Woof! Messy Public Policy Supply Chains

Forgive me for a one-track mind today, but I am consumed by affordable housing. The business world is well equipped to discuss supply chains when its electronic components to an iPad. It gets very complicated when it's not widgets but people and policies that require planning and safe passage.

The Mayor of Madison (of whom I'm challenging for office) has released an early budget initiative to fund $4 million a year towards affordable housing initiatives (or in political hyberbole: "$20 million over 5 years!" -the amount of time he'd be in office, should he be reelected..).  The supply of housing in my hometown is not keeping up with the demand. Open affordable housing is non-existent. The emergency shelters are overflowing.

As part of my graduate studies here at Heinz College, the city's situation is something I've been studying in depth. It's also the topic of a new and well researched study put out by one of the City's committees as well.

If our ultimate goal is to have a system where there are no longer housing affordability and availability issues, then there are a lot of separate, oddly-shaped widgets that need to come together to create a fully functioning housing apparatus that meets our needs.

My most pressing concern with the Mayor's proposal (other than doing this now because there's a reelection looming overhead and his past efforts at housing initiatives have involved disbanding the housing committee for more than a year and proposing $25,000 to bus the homeless out of the city) is that he's severely over promising on insufficient funds that simply cannot deliver his promises in a timely fashion, given the pressing, expensive market.

Without jumping too deep into the weeds, the ability to leverage local, state, federal funds to challenge in real time a 2-3% vacancy rate and up to 4,000 people, many families with children, in the area's emergency shelters TODAY requires significant, decisive, strategic channeling of myriad funding sources and financing packages. Yes, the proposal does let some water out of the tap that has been no more than drips, but is it enough water fast enough to put out the fire? I don't believe it is. So then, who burns?

Madison's city government has a regular history of trying to make everyone happy (usually to poor effect). Unlike an industrial city like Pittsburgh where there's significant foundation and private endowments sustaining social service entities,  It has frequently created a social service funding situation where many groups are competing for a finite, limited supply of resources.

Instead of funding several key areas of services, organizations or priorities on a targeted basis, instead many applicant groups get a small amount of money that only partially meets their needs and is subject to the city's annual budget reauthorization process. The system favors status quo continuing funding, but now in an era of declining budgets, funds are not keeping up with demands.

The current Mayor has been in office over 3 different terms stretching back to 1973. Clearly the habits that have resulted in our social service structural deficits have roots in his leadership, and here he demonstrates it again.  $4million a year cannot possibly achieve some 750 housing units that focus on so many different priorities and user groups.

Much like the Japanese earthquake was a stress test for Hewlett Packard in this week's reading, the housing situation in Madison has been under heavy (and now, prolonged) stress. Hewlett Packard had a dynamic, responsive system structure. Madison does not. Without an adequate policy and funding structure, changes to state and federal funding programs, not to mention shifting market dynamics, have repeatedly tipped the city's affordable housing system off the cliff.

Part of what my housing proposal does is try to put together a real-time, market-driven response to effectively make a dent in the expanding chaos and improve the city's housing system functioning for those who are homeless or are feeling pinched in their survival. Madison's demand is high, and it's housing supply chain components are undersized and of questionable reliability and delivery schedule. What is Madison's strategy for bringing affordable housing online equitably (not geographically and socioeconomically segregated) and in a timed fashion that does not cause more at-risk residents to fall into duress and actually improves their situation?

I believe the Mayor's funding proposal is too little, too delayed (and arguably too late.. he's had 3 budgets to start getting to work on this) to functionally make a dent in a city that has continued to seen low and stagnant vacancy rates and rising rent in Madison, amidst significant construction (in 2013 the vacancy rate on apartments was between 2-3% even with 396 new market-rate apartments added in Madison, with an additional 1,40 units either approved or under construction.

At the end of the day, $4 million is a lot more towards the issue than he's ever been bothered with in the past, and yes, it's far more equitable than $25,000 to bus the homeless out the city.

Soglin, this old dog, is trying out some new toys (and a loud bark), but it's a lot of old tricks. Strong resources are needed (and has been needed prior to this year) to get the system back on track, not just throwing everyone a bone.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.