We have an opportunity to build desperately needed housing in our neighborhood to address racial inequality, increase class mobility, lift barriers to homeownership, and so much more—or we could build it somewhere far away and inaccessible so the line at our local Starbucks doesn’t get too long.
Developing low-income housing in the asthenosphere, below the lithosphere, below the Earth’s surface, sixty-two miles below the air that belongs to us and our wealthy friends, is a fair compromise. It will add supply to the record-low housing inventory in a way that maintains the aesthetic integrity of our quintessential American life that we have zero interest in allowing others to share.
The continental crust is overcrowded with people, development, and opportunity for luxury condos. There’s just not enough space for affordable housing anywhere we could conceivably lay eyes on. And, technically, it will still be in our zip code (but in a different school district).
Long commutes, which contribute to traffic congestion and air pollution, increase employee absences, so we chose a hot market area boiling with job opportunities — the upper layer of the earth’s mantle, accessible via stairs and an elevator prone to breaking down. That may sound antithetical, unfair, or scientifically untenable, but we don’t play by the laws of nature or let our kids play with less affluent kids.
Make no mistake, we are fully committed to building affordable housing in a location of our choosing. We would have loved to build affordable housing closer than somewhere prohibitively far away, like on the open lot available in our neighborhood, but we already committed that property to a million-dollar single-family home.
With so many job opportunities in our neighborhood’s growing economy, we wanted to build workforce housing to attract new employees and allow local businesses to thrive. Workers will definitely want to live in a place that looks like the dank labyrinth below Gringotts Wizarding Bank. We’ll admit—it’s not an infallible solution. It doesn’t accomplish any of our stated goals or have access to good-paying jobs, real opportunity, goblin railcars that could shorten commute times, or my beloved Pike Place Medium Roast coffee, but it will keep our neighborhood rooted in old, problematic traditions, which is important to us.
These below-garden-level duplexes will be high-quality and sensibly priced, and we are keeping costs down by investing minimally in construction, drilling a massive hole in the ground, throwing pillows into the most homey void you’ve ever seen, and turning a reasonable profit. (The tax credit helps.) Our development strategy will provide opportunities for young people and single households and ensure the welfare of the most vulnerable members of the population — safe, decent, and affordable options that have no windows, sunlight, vegetation, clean air, or access to our Starbucks that already runs out of pumpkin-spice lattes by 3 p.m.
The gravity of the situation— which we literally do not understand— led us to make a decision that works for us yet benefits no one. In our defense, we are pretty sure the expression “a stone’s throw away” still applies, even though the stone would be traveling at a lethal speed by the time it reaches the newly constructed Watch Your Head Properties.
We think people in affordable-housing units should have access to excellent public education, hospitals, parks, and playgrounds. The molten outer core of the Earth’s interior, which might be a great teaching tool for geology classes (or not, it doesn’t really matter), is a great bonus. I’m sure we will also figure out how to provide essential services in the netherworld. (We can build them their own Whole Foods!)
Anyway, once the asthenosphere becomes cool and trendy, our kids will move there too. As soon as the place becomes gentrified and completely unaffordable, we will be more than happy to build affordable housing elsewhere, like the Earth’s core, the Moon, or even on the lot outside of town where the new, totally tasteless Starbucks Drive-Thru is. (We hate change!)