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Live it or leave it

I once read a book about the development of Windows NT (no, I really don't know why). It introduced me to a wonderful concept, inelegantly named "eating your own dog food." It was a stage of development where the programmers were forced to actually install and run Windows NT on their own computers and use that for work, to see how their efforts work for a user.

I think it's a great idea. It forces people to see just how their efforts work for the people on the other side of the fence, to see their perspective. What seems perfectly intuitive and simple to the engineer can be baffling to the end-user.

That's the idea behind cities having residency requirements for employees. City governments set the tone for the quality of life, and their employees carry out those policies.

The residency requirement is currently stirring up some controversy in Boston. Many city workers are complaining that it costs too much to live in Boston, and they want to be able to live in the cheaper suburbs and commute to work. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is closing in on $1500/month, and the price of a home is almost $600,000 in downtown Boston.

Now, the logical response to this, it seems to me, would be to look into what's causing the prices to be so high and see just what the city can and should do to reduce it. My first thought would be to look at property taxes; they're often a major factor in housing costs.

If I were an elected official in Boston (shudder), the last thing I would do would be to loosen the residency requirement. From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, I'd be doing a favor for a small percentage of my constituents (who, in return, would not be able to vote for me as thanks) and ignoring the much larger number of voters who would still be stuck with the high cost of living.

But that's just what a couple of candidates for mayor are doing. I suspect they're being swayed by the potential money and other vote-getting power of the public unions, and are deciding that they'd rather have their support than address the root causes of their stated concerns.

Because that just might threaten the city's income and power, and we can't have that.


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Comments (11)

Boston has so many beautifu... (Below threshold)
Zsa Zsa:

Boston has so many beautifual old historical buildings...I would imagine the insurance and taxes are out of this world!... I have been to Boston only once. I flew in on an air ambulance to pick my sister up. That was a scary experience flying into the Boston airport! The runway was really wild! Anyway, ...I would think that the downtown area of Boston is where all of the beautiful people aspire to live? I just remember the Quincy Market area. Is that downtown and that airport. . . I think you should run for office! Mass. needs more politicians like you! You might not be liberal enough though.

Jay Tea feel free to correc... (Below threshold)
Zsa Zsa:

Jay Tea feel free to correct my mistakes! It is early and I am not quite awake yet! Sorry about that! I know that irritates you.

Gotta disagree with you, Ja... (Below threshold)

Gotta disagree with you, Jay. Residency requirements have nothing to do with the type of quality-control ideal you suggest. After all, city employees have far less to do with a city's quality of life than a city's politicians. Moreover, even to the extent that city employees do affect such things for ordinary citizens, they are the ones that are most able to circumvent bureucratic inconveniences -- because they know the right people.

Residency requirements have a much more base rationale. They're a legacy of machine politics and and the patronage system. Politicians in such systems need to be able to insure that those who get plum city jobs are able to return the favor with votes. That is pretty much the sole true rationale for these requirements.

-- Spoons de Chicago

And residency requirements ... (Below threshold)

And residency requirements for police seems to me like the city is trying to get some policing services for free... it's not like an off-duty cop is going to ignore crime in his own neighborhood.

By the way, more than just high property taxes can be the cause of high housing costs. There's restrictive zoning, rent regulation, naming of buildings as historic, etc. All of these keep supply down, and thus prices rise to seek equilibrium with the demand.

Supply and demand.Wh... (Below threshold)

Supply and demand.
What are the restrictions on the supply of housing? That'll be the core of the high cost. Look at San Francisco - the government will mandate "low cost housing" while stopping new housing from being built for ecological and other (government power keeping) reasons.

Scarcity is causing the hig... (Below threshold)
Just John:

Scarcity is causing the high property prices. High property taxes would act to bring values down.

"It was a stage of devel... (Below threshold)

"It was a stage of development where the programmers were forced to actually install and run Windows NT on their own computers and use that for work"

And they released it anyway?

BTW The Residency Requireme... (Below threshold)

BTW The Residency Requirement has devastated the NOPD and they are probably going to abolish it this month after a dozen years of the nonsense.

I can't imagine why you ref... (Below threshold)

I can't imagine why you referred to the phrase "eating your own dog food" as "inelegant". Elegance in language usually means "concise, clear and richly evocative".

Having managed software development organizations, and having used the technique, I must protest that the phrase could not be more "concise, clear and richly evocative".

The average rent for a two-... (Below threshold)

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is closing in on $1500/month, and the price of a home is almost $600,000 in downtown Boston.What makes them think that the suburbs are going to be any better? I live about 20 miles from downtown in one of the arguably "cheaper" towns and those prices would be considered a bargain; there are 4br homes here listing for $700k or more. The only way to escape the exhorbitant Boston-area housing market is to move to Providence, north of Manchester, NH or west of Worcester, giving yourself a 100+mile commute each way.

I echo the post by someone ... (Below threshold)
B Potts:

I echo the post by someone as to why the housing costs are so high. It truly is supply and demand here; college students graduate and stay here to work. However, the taxes are ridiculous for Boston and the areas around it. And of course now, we have the Mayor of Boston proposing taxes on business owners, and perhaps the most lamed brained proposal by some Boston pol: A user tax on those people wanting to drive into the downtown Boston area.






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