Blue Teaneck Throwing Shade

On his page, local gadfly Bill Orr has a post about housing in Teaneck.

This is an important issue and worth taking a look at, in depth.

“Housing should be a basic human right for all not just those who are affluent. Increasingly such is not the case in Teaneck. With people moving from NYC and elsewhere to our town, it has brought us higher prices and done little to help those who cannot afford these costs.”

There are two ways to reduce housing costs.

  1. Create more housing
  2. Reduce the value of existing housing

What does Blue Teaneck suggest Teaneck do?

“The poor suffer the most for if they can find housing it’s living in cramped quarters with too many people jammed together, at higher risk for Covid, and fearful they cannot pay their rent and soon might be evicted.”

If they can’t find housing, he seems to be leaning in favor of making more housing.

“With increasing prices both for private homes and the new “Luxury Apartments,” the middle class is being carved out, sometimes made worse by losing income because of Covid, and made impossible for many seniors wanting to move to an affordable apartment.”

Ok, so we need more housing and it needs to be less expensive.

But who will build it?

Developers?  According to Orr / Blue Teaneck they are only interested in building things that are too expensive.

“Developers are building high-end apartments which only the wealthier can afford.”

Got it, but what can we do?

“As housing prices increase it hurts most those people we depend on for services as their wages are pitiful.”

So we need to also decrease housing prices, but how?

“Teaneck should create its own Affordable Housing Authority for our residents as opposed to the current system which provides a lottery open to thousands of individuals in multiple counties.”

Ahh, a solution.  Kind of.

Bill Orr is correct that affordable housing is offered to “thousands of individuals in multiple counties”.

The reason that it’s offered to so many, is an act of Congress called the FAIR HOUSING ACT and NJ Affordable Housing rules.

You see, people that live outside Teaneck need housing, too.  In fact, if it’s a “right” for people living here, it’s a “right” for people living somewhere else, as well.  In fact, most of us lived somewhere else, at some point.

The protections included in the Fair Housing Act require us, as municipality to ensure that they be granted to more than just your town.

But WHY does it require that?

The answer is as simple as it is profound: because it was created to ensure that a community with opulence and privilege doesn’t exile those outside, to their own misery.  That people shouldn’t be shut out of federally protected opportunities, merely because their current zip code isn’t investing in doing the right thing, the same way as another.

Let me put it a little more plain: the argument that housing opportunities should go to your own and not people from other towns is exactly what racists said to deny Blacks, Jews and others the ability to live here in Teaneck to begin with.  Today, it’s the language of those that claim “I got mine and to hell with you”.

How do self proclaimed progressives say this?
Why is it not being called out for the rank hypocrisy that it is?

But Orr continues….

“[Teaneck] should also consider relaxing zoning, developing rules, as it has done in past cases, but do so cautiously to benefit residents.”

He is absolutely correct that zoning affects the cost of housing stock.  And that changes in zoning could affect home values.

“Over the years those living in a private home see their value increase so the township gets more income, as it also does from large new apartments.”

First, this isn’t how taxation works.  The budget the town sets is distributed based on the amount of aggregate value.  If an individual housing price oscillates, they all adjust accordingly.  The net amount the township gets, remains the same.

But second, there are many ways to address the housing values based on zoning rules.

In order to do away with racial inequities, Minneapolis recently abolished single family zoning.

Read: How Minneapolis became the first to end single-family zoning

“To help address a housing shortage, Minneapolis became the first large American city to end single-family zoning, the rules that restrict certain neighborhoods to single-family homes. Now, buildings with up to three units can be built on any residential lot. Leaders hope this, and other plans, will add new units, create density and remedy segregation.”
– Megan Thompson (PBS)

Of course, Orr only wants certain types of changes, as he says we must “do so cautiously to benefit residents.”

Why Bill?

If you want to protect equity for all, you can do that.  But when you make changes to zoning to benefit a particular group of people already living here, you do so to the detriment of others.

You can choose to live according to your principles or you can choose to keep single family zoning.

But you have to choose.


“In every American community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects, ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.”
– Phil Ochs