Wendell leaders have long wanted to see the town’s housing stock increase in quality. That’s a noble goal, and one most people would agree with.
After all, larger, more expensive homes means a larger tax base - and more money - for the town. It also means families moving in are more likely to have larger disposable incomes that they’d be willing to spend in local shops and restaurants.
In short, it’s an position worth fighting for.
Standing in the way of that seemingly good idea is a principal most of us hold dear - the free market.
The free market requires that suppliers will meet the demands that exist. In Wendell, that has largely been starter homes and, yes, some subsidized housing. In fact, 12 percent of the town’s housing stock is some form of low-income housing, roughly four times what the county recommends. That means someone needs to build a lot of high-end homes to even out that balance.
To date, the town’s approach has been to stymie the free market by making it difficult to build lower-income housing.
But what if the town tried to influence the free market in a more positive way.
The town could provide incentives to builders who will build higher-value homes. Those incentives could take the form of tax credits extended over a period of years. They could come in the form of assistance building roads and constructing water and sewer lines. It could come in the form of a streamlined review process that saves time and money.
In short, most any incentive the town wants to offer can help attract the kind of new development town leaders want - within the constraints of today’s economic times, of course.
Incentives are what has lured lower-income housing to Wendell. Perhaps the town should put some of its own chips on the table to actively lure the kinds of development it really wants.