The government versus the market

The following story is really the perfect paradigm of why the government always messes up when it gets into the market:

Three months after opening, San Anselmo’s newest affordable housing complex for seniors remains only half-filled, despite waiting lists of up to five years at other facilities throughout the county. “By now, I thought we’d have quite a waiting list,” said Jerry Knecht, president of the Ross Valley Ecumenical Housing Association, which spent five years and $1.6 million to develop Tam House II, a 10-room community house for seniors about two blocks from downtown San Anselmo.

With its large, comfortable couches, private rooms, vegetable garden and shared kitchen – where chef Martin Michel prepares dinner every night – Tam House II

feels more like an old-fashioned boardinghouse than a senior apartment complex.

But it’s that cooperative living model, in which residents share meals, common areas and some bathrooms, that could make it difficult for Tam House II to attract a large number of tenants, according to affordable housing advocates. “Shared living can be a hard model for seniors,” said Leelee Thomas, affordable housing program coordinator for the county Community Development Agency, who previously worked at a community housing complex in Fairfax. “It’s partially a generational thing. Our model growing up, what we were  taught, was that the goal was to own our own private home. As people are aging and set in their ways, it’s even more difficult to share space with people. We went through a huge number of applications to get to those folks who were interested in living in a shared situation.”

You can read the rest here.

You did notice, didn’t you, that this little experiment in senior communal living cost $1.6 million dollars?  Anyone with any knowledge of seniors would know that seniors want more space to themselves, not less, as they grow older.  That’s why, when you have an aged, increasingly helpless parent, it’s such a huge problem convincing him or her that live-in help is the only way to go if he or she wants to remain at home and not move into assisted living.  The elderly, set in their ways, don’t, on the whole, want someone in their territory.  Governments, though, seem not to think in those terms, because the bottom line doesn’t matter as much to them, so they can go with airy-fairy theories unrelated to marketplace realities.