Unbearable

Let’s see how numbers get twisted and the body public misinformed given the story here: 

Officials and residents of the the city of Amsterdam may have been surprised to discover that the city’s population increased over the past decade, accoding to the 2010 U.S. Census, but another increase is a cause for concern.

The vacancy rate of the 9,218 housing units in the city increased by 63 over the past decade, but it continued an upward trend atht has seen the number of vacant properties nearly double since 1990.

First, I get to hear on my drive to work, complements of local radio, that the number of vacant houses in the city is 9218. Of course, 9218 is the number of total housing units and if one thought about the plausibility of 9218 vacant units in a city of our side, one would pause to reflect if that number made any sense. As reflection and thought are not staples of the local airwaves, you are left with a hapless public drinking the morning Kool-Aid.

Second, the numbers above lack some consistent framework as you have a mixture of numbers — percentage increases, measures and time frames. As a result, you get the usual clarion calls for demolition or incorrect conclusions and policy — “just look at the numbers!”, they exclaim.  Ahh, nothing sates the lust for demolition like the hope for more demolition:

“Obviously the city has taken a hard look and put money in demolition,” he said. “They have realized that and they have expended dollars to that cause.”

Late last year, the Common Council approved the bonding of $1.2 million to demolish houses deemed too far gone or damaged for rehabilitation. The funding is expected to take down about 30 vacant properties. An August auction also took more than 100 properties off the city’s hands, with hopes that new owners will rehabilitate and occupy the units.

I love seeing my tax dollars go to demolition so I can pay ever higher tax rates to build absolutely nothing.

If you do look at the numbers, you actually get a much different picture. Indeed, a radically different picture.

Here they are:

[scribd id=54450193 key=key-2bhn526597osrxovcrq0 mode=list]

A few comments:

1) The size of households actually decreased from 1990 to 2000 even though the vacancy rate increased. It’s hard to say what will happen to household size from 2000 to 2010 unless you know something about how the distributions look.

2) The vacancy rate from 2000 to 2010 went from 13.9% to 14.7%. It’s between 1990 and 2000 that the vacancy rate doubled. So all the panic and demagoguery about vacancy is actually 10 years after the fact. I’m not dismissing the rise in vacancy but to act as if doubling is a new development is simply wrongheaded. Of course, what is  Amsterdam without drama.

3) The vacancy rate actually contains inventories of rentals and properties for sale that happen to be unoccupied. I’m afraid the term is widely understood as homes that are abandoned or shuttered — that is simply wrong. But hey, the demolitionists demand sacrifice so let’s not get caught up on specific meanings for terms.

It’s all simply unbearable — endless focus on supply and blissful ignorance of demand.

Madness.

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