Hat tip to David Newquist for irony of the week!
Joop Bollen has made a living by coordinating government intrusions in the marketplace. For nearly twenty years, as director of the South Dakota International Business Institute under the Board of Regents and as boss of private contractor SDRC Inc., he has marshaled state and federal resources to secure foreign investment in favored businesses.
But let local government express a desire in stimulating activity in a business sector where Bollen has a stake, and Bollen suddenly views government as a sloppy, ill-informed interloper that has no business challenging his market position.
Aberdeen has had a tough time providing housing. A November 2010 housing study found a need for more income-based and low-income rental housing. A study completed last month finds the need persists. To address this need, the Aberdeen Housing Authority would like to build a 40-unit subsidized apartment building to serve low-income folks in the over-55 age range.
Joop Bollen, who lost his economic development contract with the state in September and now must rely on his extensive rental property holdings to keep him and his wife Charisse jetsetting, is raising all sorts of objections to this effort to help Aberdonians find decent places to live. He tells the Aberdeen City Council the housing study must be flawed:
Joop Bollen who owns various properties in Aberdeen, including the Fifth Avenue Apartments, said he is concerned with the validity of the study.
“I’m very concerned that the study is skewed,” Bollen said questioning whether the study takes into account recently constructed apartments in Aberdeen and the recent closure of the beef plant.
“You should review the study and make sure it’s accurate,” Bollen said. “If you sign off on that letter, you state you’ve seen the study and feel there’s a need. My concern is whether or not there’s a real demand” [Elisa Sand, "Landlords Disagree with Need for Housing Authority Request," Aberdeen American News, 2014.02.19].
Giggles turn to guffaws when Bollen turns on his old profession and declares his private market off-limits to government subsidy:
In addition to concerns about the study, Bollen also questioned whether it’s the city’s role to subsidize public housing [Sand, 2014.02.19].
Mayor Mike Levsen can't leave that silly assertion alone:
“The idea that government has a role in housing is established policy for the past 50 years,” Mayor Mike Levsen said [Sand, 2014.02.19].
David Newquist finds both irony and self-serving counterfactuality in Bollen's protest:
Many students, especially single parents, found help in subsidized housing, which made it affordable for them to attend college. The real complaint that some landlords have about subsidized housing is that they may have to lower their rents to compete. City housing makes it possible for many people to live decently, something that is of no concern to the private rental market. The study shows that there is a 3.9 percent vacancy rate in Aberdeen. The private landlords want to be subsidized by eliminating the competition provided by the city [David Newquist, "Watch Out: Here Comes a Huge Load of Irony," Northern Valley Beacon, 2014.02.19].
Bollen has raised alarms of convenience against government intervention in his marketplace before. In 2008, Aberdeen code enforcement officer Mike Holsten found a plague of rental units in abominable conditions. When the city proposed a plan for annual inspections, Bollen leapt to opposition:
However, some local landlords think the ordinance is too drastic. Joop Bollen, who owns more than 300 rental units, said requiring annual inspections would be a logistical nightmare and might not be as necessary as the city thinks.
“From a management standpoint, who's going to be there to do these inspections?” Bollen asked. “Do I have to take time off work? What if (the tenant) isn't home?”
Bollen said he can't form an opinion until his questions are answered. He also thinks paying for more than 300 annual inspections could be a financial burden. The city should first determine whether there is a problem, Bollen said.
Anyone can create a slide show portraying a big problem - just choose the worst pictures, he said [Jackie Burke Grumish, "Rental Housing Horrors," Aberdeen American News, 2008.02.03].
If Joop Bollen is sincere about his free-market conservatism, he should go apologize to the small dairies he's put out of business, the workers whose hopes he raised and dashed, and the foreign investors whose millions he made disappear with his rabid promotion of government intervention in the market with the EB-5 visa investment program.