There’s this blogger and journalist, Matthew Yglesias, who I follow somewhat loosely. He has a newsletter on Substack to which I subscribe called Slow Boring, in which he writes hot takes about U.S. politics.
I don’t read it often because I have my own stuff to write, but it’s a good reference when I get curious about his thoughts on a given subject.
The name of Yglesias’s newsletter comes from a speech given by German intellectual Max Weber in 1919, during the German Revolution. The speech was titled Politik als Beruf (Politics as a Vocation).
“Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards,” Weber said in German. “It takes both passion and perspective.”
I don’t want to publicly endorse or reject Yglesias’s ideas or Weber’s ideas at large because I’m barely an expert on Moab let alone all the things they thought and think about.
I do, however, want to endorse the particular idea that politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards and slightly twist it.
In a report that will come out next week, Fisher and I will go through best practices that housing experts at the University of Utah recommend for municipalities. They use evidence from implementations of those practices around the state, but our focus will be on how those practices look or would look in Moab.
The best practices are laid out in a paper, published last year by the university, titled “Housing Affordability: What Are Best Practices and Why Are They Important?”
There are quite a few best practices, and they are important for different reasons. This unsatisfying point is made in the introduction.
“Addressing the housing crisis requires a multi-practice approach,” wrote the authors. “Successful housing strategies involve a set of practices tailored to the city’s political climate, development history, and socioeconomic conditions.”
The next point the authors make is that “best practices often produce small, incremental outcomes.” Success on housing affordability, they said, is measured in increments. Again, this is not a very satisfying answer, but I think they’re right, and I think they have the evidence to show it.
The point I want to make here is a rehash of what Weber said at the end of his speech in 1919, and I owe Yglesias credit for isolating the clever pun here.
I want to say that affordable housing is slow boring, and I want to call everyone’s attention to the passion and perspective it will take to solve it.
In Moab, boring happens with the passage of a new housing ordinance or zone change. Boring happens during construction of a new apartment complex. Boring happens with each meeting of a body or board convened for the purpose of a housing discussion.
Housing issues exist everywhere, as everyone keeps saying, but we have our own version of the problem. We ought to be serious about shrinking the nearly $5,000 gap between monthly wages in Moab and the monthly cost of owning a home here. We ought to follow the evidence as we try to make that happen.
Housing affordability is a slow boring issue, so unless anybody has evidence to show that Moab’s housing situation is actually fine or that we have exhausted our options for addressing it, we should keep boring away.