Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 10, 2015

You gotta look out for yourself

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

In light of the Republican debate that happened last week where a fair number of folks in Alameda were attempting to prove their progressiveness by mocking the candidates at the debate, I thought it was a good time to bring out this article which I have been saving for a rainy day.

I thought that the title was particularly catchy: How Fair Housing Will Turn Liberal Cities Conservative


[T]he indecent question Edsall asks is whether fair housing will make Stanley Kurtzes out of liberals. Now that white communities are required to make room for poor and minority households, will white liberals in those communities continue to vote with the Democratic Party?

Even ruder: Will the prospect of black neighbors turn liberals into conservatives?

It’s hard enough to build new market-rate housing in the cities that need housing most. In Washington, D.C., the zoning commission just decreased the maximum height on “pop-up” additions and construction in the parts of the city growing most rapidly. Homeowners in D.C. say that they want to protect the character of their neighborhood and the quality of construction during this boom time.

Even at the most granular level, NIMBYism can take the form of an entitled localism that sounds positive. A hyperlocal petition started by a condo-owner to keep a 7-Eleven out of a nearby storefront is a crypto-case of There Goes the Neighborhood–ism.

The arguments and policies that will win over liberal white homeowners will not mention race or class directly (the way they surfaced in McKinney, Texas). But the policies will have the effect of restricting the density that makes sense for affordable housing or the amenities favored by low-income populations.

Which is further underscored in this older 2007 piece from Mother Jones about Marin County:

Housing advocates say Duane exemplifies a vexing irony: People support affordable housing with their labor, money, and votes—just so long as it’s nowhere near them.

The multiplicity of neighborly concerns raised by NIMBYists can leave housing advocates guessing what the real issue is. A recent poll by the Citizens Housing and Planning Association in Massachusetts suggests that, across party lines, most opposition to affordable housing boils down to homeowner fear of lowered property values and higher school costs.

At any rate, Duane believes that housing working-class people in high-income areas goes beyond Habitat’s mandate. “There seems to be a change in the idea of what Habitat is,” he says. “It reminds me of what’s happened with the American Civil Liberties Union, which used to be a great institution in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. But now the ACLU is saying, ‘Well, we’re going to represent the Mexicans and illegal aliens, rather than Americans.’ They’ve overstepped.” Duane would rather see a new group build visionary, ecofriendly communes in Marin where low-income people can share appliances such as refrigerators. “They should be creating wireless areas of tribal habitats,” he says. Not in his neighborhood, though. He recommends a spot owned by the Catholic Church, several exits down the freeway.




  1. Since we’re an island city where the vast majority of proposed new housing will be underwater as sea levels rise, one might edit the question quoted in the article above (“Will the prospect of black neighbors turn liberals into conservatives?”) and ask the following about local liberal advocates of greater housing development in Alameda:

    Will the prospect of climate change and sea level rise turn Alameda liberals into conservative climate-science-deniers?

    Comment by Ruh Roh — August 10, 2015 @ 7:23 am

  2. This map shows what many people do not want to hear.

    Whatever political party one favors, whatever the color of your skin, there’s no getting around this map and the future.

    Stop building on our future waterways.

    Comment by A Neighbor — August 10, 2015 @ 8:02 am

  3. Affordable housing hold be built in affordable areas. To place a low income family in an upscale neighborhood would be unfair to the low income family. They would always feel like underachievers and would live a life of frustration. It would appear that the problem isn’t so much affordable housing, as much as it’s about quantity of jobs. We should not be focused on building more affordable housing, rather we should be focused on bringing back manufacturing to the U.S. and begin to support American citizens vs. those in other counties. We used to say that there was plenty of work to go around, but that is no longer true. We must bring back jobs to the U.S. and give our citizens a reason to support themselves and spend more time at work than at home applying for support programs that damage our economy.

    Comment by Bill2 — August 10, 2015 @ 8:27 am

  4. Implicit in this entire discussion, as especially illustrated by Bill2’s comment, is the assumption that “low-income” status is an immutable characteristic, like skin color or ethnic heritage. Once low-income, always low-income? That is as bigoted an idea as any other.

    “They would always feel like underachievers and would live a life of frustration.” Well, then by all means, confine them in a low-income ghetto so they don’t get any “upscale”-is that where the term “uppity” comes from?–ideas.

    BTW, most readers would consider me a conservative. And anyone who actually knows the background of most of the Republican candidates, realizes that they probably grew up in low-income housing (like when your father is a bartender and your mother a waitress). I think labels fail here.

    Comment by vigi — August 10, 2015 @ 9:33 am

  5. It’s a lot easier to dismiss people as “racist” or “Republican” than to address their concerns about growth. I don’t think that lower property values or higher school costs are what’s driving the opposition here. (Although permanent gridlock will almost certainly lower property values.)

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — August 10, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

  6. #5, yes gridlock will destroy our property values just like it did in Manhattan, and San Francisco.

    Comment by John P. — August 10, 2015 @ 3:12 pm

  7. #6 — Wait, you mean there’s a subway and trains in Alameda that will take me across and off the island? Cause Manhattan and San Francisco have them. How could I have lived here for as long as I have and missed them?

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — August 10, 2015 @ 8:46 pm

  8. Because where you live determines where your children go to school, the struggle to get into good school districts has stratified society. Everyone buys the best house they can afford, and then live amongst citizens of the same income bracket. If schools and residential real estate were not joined at the hip, then citizens would be free to live where ever and it not affect their children’s education. We could stop overspending on houses, and live how we want to live. We do not see the stratification in commercial real estate that we see in residential. There is a tendenancy to simply mix it up. Yet mostly what we do in our houses is eat a quick dinner and sleep. It is generally an expensive snooze.

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — August 10, 2015 @ 9:39 pm

  9. 8. how would removing Prop 13 for commercial effect rents? Would it simply cut into profit or would you have to hike rents? It seems that after years and years we are finally seeing a viable environment for a change to the laws for commercial.

    Now that our kids are out of the house and the mortgage is paid down we benefit heavily from Prop 13 and I’m frankly relieved because having done physical work my whole life I’m slowing down and staggering to the finish line of retirement. I’d rather simply pay more and not have extra school taxes, but also couldn’t pay the full amount for the current market value of our home. I get how older folks on fixed income would be forced to sell to people who have high paying jobs and drive the home buying market. It would be good to meet somewhere in the middle.

    Comment by MI — August 11, 2015 @ 8:48 am

  10. Prop 13 is one of the factors keeping home prices higher in CA by dis-incentivizing seniors from selling. In the rest of the country, older folks downsize & cash out much more commonly than here. That adds to supply.

    As for commercial rents, they are set by markets, supply and demand, rather than by taxes. A commercial landlord is generally unable to jack up rents simply because he wants to or has increased costs. He can typically only do it if there is sufficient demand.

    Comment by dave — August 11, 2015 @ 9:28 am

  11. dave, are you factually certain about higher cash outs? If prices are higher here isn’t there more incentive to cash out, especially if you can apply Prop 13 to next purchase? Even if you are correct, the bigger factor on prices are the high income people scrambling for good schools. Wait a few more years for all the twenty something tech bros paying $1million for a Victorian flat in the Mission to start raising families. In SF the demand for commercial is driving mom and pop businesses to fold.

    Comment by MI — August 11, 2015 @ 12:03 pm

  12. The biggest Buyers in SF and Alameda are foreign chinese buyers and partnerships. They are devaluing the Yuan and looking for places to park their capital and also become eligible to gain tax benefits for investment and residency.

    A burgeoning middle class is now looking to invest their money in a safe haven, away from China’s polluted air and political and economic uncertainties. Additionally, in China you never have home ownership.

    “In China, it’s a 70-year lease, so there are uncertainties. Nobody knows what’s going to happen 70 years from now right?” said one realtor.

    Overseas Chinese spent $22 billion buying homes in the U.S. from March 2013 to the same period in 2014. That was up a whopping 72 percent from the year before and California is their most popular market.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — August 11, 2015 @ 12:26 pm

  13. “biggest buyers”, care to do some more Goggling and come up with a hard percentage on that? I know the amount of Chinese money coming in quoted in the article is probably correct, but anecdotally and empirically, I haven’t caught on to this. Not saying it isn’t true but you should back it up with specifics. The strength of middle class may falter along with their economy because they can’t sustain growth. Devaluation means they can afford less here in US, right? In 1970s it looked like Japanese would own us too, but their economy has faltered.

    Comment by MI — August 11, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

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