Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 21, 2015

Sick and tired of being sick and tired

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

This is timely considering the discussion on rents, how much is too much of an annual rent increase, and why shouldn’t landlords be able to raise rents larger percentages when the economy is good to make up for the leaner times.  Vox has a piece on the recently released report from the White House detailing the role of rents on inequality.  So, I’ll admit a lot of the economic speak was a lot over my head so it would be helpful for the economists type folks in the house (I know there’s at least two of you in the audience, maybe more) to help layspeak it for the rest of us.  I mean I understand it on the level of “hey this is in English and I have good comprehension skills” but that’s about it.  Except for Box 1, I totally understood Box 1 and I’m going to fixate on that after excerpting the Vox piece.

From the Vox piece:

This phenomenon — a decline in the labor share of income — hadn’t really happened before. In fact, economists had kind of convinced themselves that it couldn’t happen, and that the labor share was something like a fixed property of the economy.

But obviously that was wrong. And the most natural interpretation of why it’s wrong is that the bosses are getting one over on the rest of us. Maybe it’s globalization, maybe it’s automation, maybe it’s the decline of labor unions, maybe it’s neoliberal hegemony (why not), or maybe it’s something to do with workplace skills. But whatever it is, it means that the American worker’s power to bargain for wages and benefits has declined, hence the declining share of income going to workers’ wages and benefits.

Except that’s wrong, too. Check out this chart — it shows that the rise in the share of national income going to the owners of businesses has only nudged up very slightly. The rise is in the share of income going to the owners of houses.

And:

That’s something people definitely used to think couldn’t happen. After all, if owning houses becomes more lucrative, then people should respond to market incentives by building more houses. There’s no way houses could just get more and more and more valuable. Except, of course, a house isn’t just a house. It’s also a place. Location, location, location, as the realtors say. A house that’s within a decent commuting distance of Google or JP Morgan is worth a lot more than a similarly sized house in San Antonio or Memphis or Cleveland. You can always make more houses, but you can’t make more land.

Except across the vast majority of America’s valuable land we’ve made it illegal to build rowhouses or apartment buildings. And so the land’s value only increases, the rents going to its owners accumulate, and workers lose out.

From the report explaining broadly about previous research on land use restrictions aka Box 1 referenced in the introduction:

Glaeser and Gyourko argue that land use restrictions largely explain occurrences of prices substantially exceeding construction costs. In other words, land use restrictions facilitate the existence of economic rents in housing markets. Glaeser and Gyourko find a strong positive association between cities where housing costs exceed construction costs and those with more land use restrictions

Land use restrictions are a particular example of rents created when policies confer benefits on insiders. One specific set of examples are zoning rules that protect existing property owners.

More broadly, while it is difficult to compare land use regulations and zoning laws across cities and geographies, academic studies have found that land use regulations lead to higher housing prices, lower rates of new construction, and lower elasticity of housing supply [emphasis added]

Land use restrictions, like, say, a nearly 40 year old ban on multifamily housing.  More:

The mechanism by which zoning creates rents is straightforward. Zoning regulations are best interpreted as real estate market supply constraints. Taking various forms—limiting height restrictions, highly restrictive minimum lot sizes, complicated permitting processes, or prohibitions on multifamily structures, to name just a few—such regulations effectively limit the number of housing units or non-residential buildings that can be built in a given area. This is accomplished either through direct categorical restrictions or imposing prohibitive costs on investors.

And speaking directly about the high rents in regions like ours:

The demographic trend of urbanization, for example, may confer rents on housing owners in places like New York and San Francisco, where housing values far exceed construction costs. Such trends are likely exogenous to the housing market itself, reflecting cultural shifts that boost demand for urban living. But they certainly provide returns to landlords well above their reservation price. These housing rents would take the form of increased producer surplus in response to an exogenous positive demand shock, rather than the negative supply shock induced by land use restrictions. [emphasis added]

I always find it fascinating, and a little ironic, when some folks urge allowing the “market” to do its thing when speaking about the increase in rents.  The “market” is the one driving up rent costs, not landlords.  The “market” makes it difficult for landlords to turn away from listing one bedroom apartments for $2300, $2490, and $2600 by emptying those units by any means necessary.  But have absolutely no problems with constraining the supply of housing being built through land use regulations and artificially constraining the same “market.”

The same fascination and irony comes from folks lamenting the possibility of a decrease in their “quality of life” if new units were to be built, but the same regard for the “quality of life” of actual renters being actually displaced from their homes and from Alameda experiencing an actual degrading of their “quality of life” doesn’t even resonate.

Equally fascinating and ironic are the folks who worry about the inability to travel freely and quickly if more units were to be built in Alameda but have no issues with Bay Area workers joining the ranks of mega commuters with five or six hour commutes in order to maintain their well paying Bay Area job, but actually find an affordable place to live.  This one also goes under the “quality of life” thing too because 4:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. is something that the majority of us could not comprehend if we cannot be inconvenienced a few extra minutes in Alameda traffic.  If this doesn’t break your heart, well…

“I’m exhausted. I love my job, but I’m almost at the point where I can’t wake up in the morning.” When she arrives back home around 8:15 p.m., she has “to review the kids’ homework, give them their baths. They don’t understand that I’m tired and I don’t like to show them that I’m tired.

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47 Comments

  1. Much to say here, right now only have time for a couple of bullet points./questions, more later:

    Any evidence or backup for this statement?

    Except across the vast majority of America’s valuable land we’ve made it illegal to build rowhouses or apartment buildings

    ————————————————-

    Re: the 3 Craigslist ads you note as ” emptying those units by any means necessary,” what evidence do you have that they were emptied by the nefarious means your tone hints at?

    ——————

    The mega-commuters mentioned in the article have those commutes because they chose, knowingly, to purchase a larger home that they knew has a terrible commute.

    Says one of them: “If we were living closer to my job, we’d probably be looking at a little 1,000 square-foot townhome and squeezing into three bedrooms,” Levers said. Instead, he and Danielle are considering a move from their four-bedroom house — purchased in 2010, in the downdraft of the 2008 crash, for $325,000 — to a nearby $600,000 place with four or five bedrooms, larger yard and a pool. Bigger is better than closer, in their case.

    I’m not sure how citing people who choose this commute & lifestyle over the higher density living that your preach as a positive good (for some) proves any of your point at all.

    Again, more later.

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 6:43 am

  2. Lauren, can you supply me any evidence that you are in fact, Lauren Do.

    Comment by John P. — October 21, 2015 @ 8:09 am

  3. Any evidence or backup for this statement?
    Except across the vast majority of America’s valuable land we’ve made it illegal to build rowhouses or apartment buildings

    See Measure A.

    Re: the 3 Craigslist ads you note as ” emptying those units by any means necessary,” what evidence do you have that they were emptied by the nefarious means your tone hints at?

    See first hand stories posted at Alameda Renters Coalition facebook page. Most recently Section 8 holders en masse receiving notices.

    I’m not sure how citing people who choose this commute & lifestyle over the higher density living that your preach as a positive good (for some) proves any of your point at all.

    If Bay Area communities had done their fair share over these past few decades and built housing to keep pace with job and population growth, there wouldn’t be the need to make these sorts of terrible trade offs.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 21, 2015 @ 8:44 am

  4. I was unaware that Measure A encompassed the “vast majority of America’s valuable land.”

    Did those addresses become vacant through those methods?

    Terrible trade off? The article makes it clear it was their choice, indeed one family has upgraded to a larger home with an awful commute. I don’t see any Hobson’s Choices in that piece.

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 8:52 am

  5. #1 & #4 – your single minded need to contradict anything Lauren posts or says does not do much for the strength of your arguments. As to the “vast majority of America’s land” being reserved for single family, low density uses, a quick survey of cities easily shows that this is the case. I just did a random sampling of cities – Iowa City (IA), Madison (WI), Sacramento (CA), and Cherry Hill (NJ) – every city has a majority of its land zoned for single family residential uses (no multi-family housing allowed). I could keep going to prove the point further, but I have to get some work done – designing housing for people.

    Comment by david burton — October 21, 2015 @ 9:14 am

  6. Why don’t we move the businesses that all these job seekers are trying to move closer to, further inland? Make it a law that Google and JP Morgan, and other large employers, cannot open new offices or plants within 100 miles of any coastline. That should relieve some of the pressure on coastal cities, like ours, to cram more residents into a limited space with fewer available services.

    Assuming laws like Measure A apply to the “vast majority of America’s valuable land”…that assertion is even more ridiculous than the ones you usually make, Lauren.

    Comment by vigi — October 21, 2015 @ 9:27 am

  7. David Burton: Well, at least you selected a few inland locations. I guess you are defining the “vast majority of America’s valuable land” quite selectively. It is only found within large cities.

    Comment by vigi — October 21, 2015 @ 9:30 am

  8. Zoning as a Barrier to Multifamily Housing Development

    Historical shift from explicit to implicit policies affecting housing segregation in Eastern Massachusetts.

    Overcoming Opposition to Multifamily Rental Housing

    The Fight Against Small Apartments

    ROOMING HOUSES: HISTORY’S AFFORDABLE QUARTERS

    SERIES: LEGALIZING INEXPENSIVE HOUSING

    And from the writer who actually wrote this statement:

    Except across the vast majority of America’s valuable land we’ve made it illegal to build rowhouses or apartment buildings. And so the land’s value only increases, the rents going to its owners accumulate, and workers lose out.

    The Rent Is Too Damn High: What To Do About It, And Why It Matters More Than You Think

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 21, 2015 @ 9:30 am

  9. 5

    Is asking for evidence for such a claim as “vast majority of America” really out of line?

    And construction of multi family housing is a growing share of housing completions, which seems to conflict with “vast majority” claim. I do have evidence for this statement, trying to figure out how to post the chart.

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 9:43 am

  10. #7 – Carol, the population of Iowa City is 71,000 and Cherry Hill is 69,000 – pretty much in line with Alameda. Are we a big city now? They, and Alameda, are pretty representative of cities across America.

    Comment by david burton — October 21, 2015 @ 9:51 am

  11. From Harvard’s Annual Housing Report Finds Multifamily a Bright Spot in the Overall Market:

    Because rental housing affordability is a complicated problem, simple solutions are hard to find. The costs of producing new rental housing continue to rise, affecting rents at the same time that meaningful income growth remains nonexistent.

    Carter also noted that community pushback against not just affordable rental housing, but rental housing in general, exacerbates some of the problems by limiting the supply of units. “You have opposition in many communities,” he said. “It may take seven years to get a project approved. This outcry … has slowed down the supply.”

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 21, 2015 @ 9:59 am

  12. 10

    Out of curiosity, what is the current rental/owner mix in those and other representative cities? Measure A notwithstanding, we already have a significant portion of multi family dwellings here, and more are coming. Does that not dampen the “zoning” and “vast majority” arguments a bit?

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 10:01 am

  13. Bloomberg has an index of multifamily completions to total housing completions, I have the chart but can’t figure out how to post it. If a verbal description suffices, 5 years ago multifamilies were 15-20% of total completions (the data varies by month) while in the last year it’s been approx 35%.

    Also, some notes from FHLMC about this trend:
    http://www.freddiemac.com/multifamily/pdf/2015_outlook.pdf

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 10:06 am

  14. 11

    From that same Harvard report:

    The multifamily industry has responded to this increase in demand, ramping up construction activity quickly. According to the report, multifamily demand and supply appear to be near balance, when comparing the change in occupied units to completions of new units.

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 10:10 am

  15. I think our expectations are a big part of the problem. My mother grew up in NYC in the 1920s. Her dad was a bookkeeper for the City of New York and her family lived in a series of apartments while she was growing up. In spite of the white collar job with a pension, my grandfather could only ever afford a one -bedroom apartment. My mom slept on the sofa in the living room and her brother on a cot in the dining room. They didn’t consider themselves poor. When I was growing up, most kids I knew shared a bedroom with a sibling, sometimes more than one. Nobody considered them disadvantaged.

    Today, many people feel if their kids don’t have their own rooms, they are living in substandard conditions. The lifestyle the typical American family aspires to includes vacations to Disney World or cruises, participation in sports teams, dance classes, and other activities. Every kid has to have a phone but they can’t even get a job delivering papers to help pay for it. From toys to clothes to enrichment, families pour more and more money into extras that didn’t even exist when we were kids. The other day, my friend expressed guilt that she could not afford to pay the phone bills of her three teenagers and had to ask them to do part time jobs to cover the cost. She felt bad about doing what has always been considered responsible parenting: making kids work for the extras to teach them the value of money. This is the result of a sick, media obsessed society. An outstanding mother feels guilty because her kids have to lift a finger for themselves.

    When everyone wants a private room, phone, and a car for every driver in the family, a big home loaded with state-of-the-art electronics, guess what? A lot of people are not going to get the golden ticket. If we keep promoting these livestyles as “the ideal”, anyone who settles for less has that sinking feeling that they are settling. That they’ve lost the game. You know how we’re always being told how happy people in Denmark are? I suspect it’s more a function of their values than it is their government. They recognize that much of what Americans think will make them happy, doesn’t. “The one who dies with the most toys wins” is a pretty crappy motto to live by but it’s been the US’s mantra because, you know, the more stuff we buy, the more jobs, right? And the people in those countries that those jobs go to are no doubt grateful while we wander through Target in thrall to all the shiny, colorful, must haves.

    Expect less. Be happier. Get rid of all the stuff. If you have a storage unit, empty it out and pocket that money. You will never use 99% of that stuff ever again.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — October 21, 2015 @ 10:28 am

  16. I would opine that the cost of zoning requirements for traffic/parking contribute to the lack of affordable housing more than Measure A. We our planning our future city for cars instead of humans. Imagine what an auto-free zone would look like.

    That said, to appreciate what Measure A has done to our city I rented, for the first 5 months of 2014, a “luxury” apartment at one of the newest apartment complexes in Alameda. It was built over 40 years ago.

    On the rent gouging point. I paid $1,900/ month for a 2BD/1BA unit on a five month lease. 18 months later the floor plan is now advertised at $2,600-3,200.

    The apartment complex was owned by an REIT. Their appeal to investors was that they bought “marginalized” properties and through “prudent capital infusion” maximized returns. I call this the slumlord’s playbook in a market that provides 40-years without worrying about new competition.

    Luxury or marginalized? In Measure A land it gets to be both.

    During my tenancy I informed the AFD that the inspection certificate on the fire suppression system in my 50-unit building had expired. The luxury.

    Comment by Gerard L. — October 21, 2015 @ 10:48 am

  17. here, fucking, here.

    I understand people who say “I don’t want it” and “keep everything the way it was.” A lot of them don’t fully understand the social ramifications of those positions over the long term, some don’t care, and that’s their prerogative. What I can’t stomach are the arguments that we are interfering in the market and it is immoral to limit the potential income of a property owner. There are so many policies that already favor incumbent property owners because, surprise!, property owners have historically had most of the political power and protected their self(ish) interests. Take it back.

    None of these discussions have even taken into consideration environmental and climate change factors.

    My attempt at summarizing in simpler terms the point of the Vox piece, which I shared yesterday on a couple of the Alameda FB pages:

    Gross Domestic Product has continued to rise in recent decades. Another way of classifying GDP (all the stuff we make and do in the economy) is on the other side of the equation. GDP basically is equal to the National Income. The nation’s income is rising (hello tech innovation creating wealth) but employee’s share of that increased income is falling. The easy target is the execs, Wall St., etc are taking it due to global wage pressures and the like. But really, all these good jobs are being created in these metro areas where local governments want the jobs (yay, healthy city budgets) but don’t want the houses required for those jobs (boo parking, traffic, poor people).
    So, with restrictive land use policies, the value of the close-to-jobs land goes way up. Builders would build more housing on this valuable land to respond to the almighty market, but they aren’t allowed to, for the most part. They can build them in Modesto, so some go there. Bye, farmland. Hello, soul crushing, gridlock creating, climate changing commutes!
    Prop 13 creates huge taxpayer funded windfalls for incumbent property owners (extracting income created by innovators and employees). Landlords raise rents to the moon (extracting income created by innovators and employees). All the while, what have they provided to the system that merits these massive extractions of wealth (rents- in the global sense it is used in the report)? They owned the right land first.
    *of course there is overlap between innovators, workers and landowners. the point, dave, is that most of the increased wealth the participants in the capital system are gaining is not from their economic efforts, just from their ability and choice to own property.

    Comment by BMac — October 21, 2015 @ 11:51 am

  18. It’s just an opinion, but I stand by it: it is not right to limit anyone’s income, not yours nor your landlord’s. Answer honestly: how would you feel if after years of flat to falling income, you were finally up for a raise but someone said no, you don’t deserve & can’t have it. Oh, and you have to still keep working at the same job and your expenses will continue rising. Think about that.

    It’s also very well established and well documented that rent controls are bad economic policy, and typically compound the problem they were designed to solve. Google “rent control” and see what you get.

    As for workers’ income stagnating, that is a massive and serious problem, but it is difficult to see how how rent control would ever solve that. Perhaps jobs should move to Modesto, et al. Why haven’t they? The skyrocketing costs of the Inner Bay Area should logically send jobs and people away, why haven’t they? Serious question.

    BTW, it’s “hear, hear.”

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

  19. Some inherit, of course, but many people who own property earned the money to buy it. I didn’t just “choose” to own property. My husband and I plannned and saved for years. When we lost our jobs, we chose to make retirment account withdrawals (paying the taxes and penalties) so we could keep paying the mortgage and keep the house. We did this because we believed it was in our best interest. Over time, it has proven to be a good choice for us. Now, if we decide to sell, or live elsewhere and rent out our house, we will probably do very nicely, but it took 27 years of effort for this to play out. We spend a lot of money maintaining the home: new roof, exterior and interior painting, kitchen remodel, plumbing and electrical improvements, etc.

    If owning property isn’t a priority for you that’s fine. You won’t have to pay property taxes (although raises in them may be reflected in the rent you pay). You won’t have to worry about bearing the cost of replacing the roof when it needs to be replaced. You’re less liable to be sued for various reasons. (Did you know that if a renter’s dog injures a neighbor, the neighbor can sue the landlord? Gee, I wonder why more landlords don’t allow pets?). You can decide to move without having to worry about the market in your area and whether or not what the property sells for will cover the new place you want to own. The drawbacks, of course, are obvious.

    “Economic efforts” include doing your homework when you buy and choosing the right property, maintaining it, paying your taxes, paying your mortgage and insurance, being a good neighbor, contributing to the community so that it thrives as a great place to live, weathering the economic storms life sends your way, etc. It’s not as simple as dropping a load of cash on a property and passively watching as it skyrockets in value. It may be that way for a few, but the majority of those who have seen their property values quadruple, there’s a lot more to it than that.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — October 21, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

  20. Perhaps jobs should move to Modesto, et al. Why haven’t they? The skyrocketing costs of the Inner Bay Area should logically send jobs and people away, why haven’t they? Serious question.

    Because tech companies hire young people. Young people want to be around the big city because of services. Services require additional workers. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I guess when the young people hired by tech companies are happy moving to Modesto then the jobs can move to Modesto. Until then companies like Twitter and Uber are going to want downtown space in an urban city.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 21, 2015 @ 12:49 pm

  21. Some inherit, of course, but many people who own property earned the money to buy it. I didn’t just “choose” to own property. My husband and I plannned and saved for years.

    How much did you buy your house for? Because the idea that families today saying they can’t afford to buy a home are not aware that they need to be saved for doesn’t recognize how out of whack home prices are compared to income.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 21, 2015 @ 12:51 pm

  22. 21

    And yet houses keep selling, quite briskly. How can that be?

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 12:57 pm

  23. 20

    Are there no services or service workers in Modesto?

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

  24. 22. Because there aren’t enough of them. That is the whole point. Cumulative supply constraints over generations, combined with shifting trends in preferences have created a supply imbalance that dwarfs anything from when people like Denise bought their home. (btw, Denise, I am not hating the player, just the game.)
    Walk by Encinal Hardware and read the artifacts from when they opened. Houses cost about 2x household income ($13k for the house). Today, that same house is selling for 10x household income, give or take. When the typical, nice, wonderful Alamedan saved and scrimped 30 years ago, the goal was attainable for average folks. Today, it is not. If there is only enough housing to cover 15% of the new residents who desire it, then there is going to be fierce competition for that, driving prices way up in a short period due to the inelastic supply of housing. That creates social disruptions in lives that match any natural disaster in terms of upheaval in people’s lives. It is a political choice to not respond to it because “I got mine, fuck you lazy kids today” which is the standard posture (in effect if not spirit) of the Boomer generation.

    Comment by BMac — October 21, 2015 @ 1:17 pm

  25. Are there no services or service workers in Modesto?

    There are. What industries are you suggesting relocate to Modesto?

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 21, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

  26. If owning your own home is what you want, then make it a priority. You may have to purchase a small condo at first and build some equity, but then at the right time you can sell it and move up to a larger home.

    My suggestion is that you attend a first time home buyer workshop and develop a plan based on what you learn.

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 21, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

  27. And yet houses keep selling, quite briskly. How can that be?

    Because some people make $200,000 and some people only make $50,000. I would imagine that when Denise S. was saving to buy her home $50,000 was considered a good salary back then, should be considered a good salary now, but not enough to rent let alone purchase a home, even with saving every single dime of discretionary money.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 21, 2015 @ 1:28 pm

  28. David Burton: An interesting choice. Why these 2 cities? I didn’t know anything about Iowa City, so I found this: http://www.bestplaces.net/metro/iowa/iowa_city. Population=153,000. “A college town, with the highest housing costs in the state.”

    Cherry Hill has a comparable population, as you said = 70,000. http://www.bestplaces.net/city/new_jersey/cherry_hill_township Median home price=$65,200.

    But neither of these cities is an island with limited land area. And there is no large awkward body of water smack dab in the middle of the metro area, complicating transportation, as there is here. Both of these constraints trump the right of everyone who wants to move here to somehow be accommodated by the people who are already here.

    I once had a housemate who hailed from Cherry Hill, NJ. He said the accomplishment he would brag about at his Cornell reunion was Living in California.

    Comment by vigi — October 21, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

  29. 26. That is incredibly patronizing, and surprising, coming from you. I know how the housing market works. I am talking about social policy, not personal preferences.

    Comment by BMac — October 21, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

  30. 28. Many people also feel you right to travel relatively large distances in a single occupancy vehicle w/out delay are trumped by the millions of people who want to live and work here. The political battle lines are clear. There are more and more on one side, and fewer by the day on the other.

    Comment by BMac — October 21, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

  31. Seriously? I was trying to be positive and helpful.

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 21, 2015 @ 1:42 pm

  32. Lest you young’ums think this is some how a NEW problem, I refer you-all to a song written about California Before Measure A:

    Do Re Mi Words and Music by Woody Guthrie [check out the Asch recordings, Smithsonian Collection, on YouTube]

    Lots of folks back East, they say, is leavin’ home every day,
    Beatin’ the hot old dusty way to the California line.
    ‘Cross the desert sands they roll, gettin’ out of that old dust bowl,
    They think they’re goin’ to a sugar bowl, but here’s what they find
    Now, the police at the port of entry say,
    “You’re number fourteen thousand for today.”

    Oh, if you ain’t got the do re mi, folks, you ain’t got the do re mi,
    Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
    California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
    But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
    If you ain’t got the do re mi.

    You want to buy you a home or a farm, that can’t deal nobody harm,
    Or take your vacation by the mountains or sea.
    Don’t swap your old cow for a car, you better stay right where you are,
    Better take this little tip from me.
    ‘Cause I look through the want ads every day
    But the headlines on the papers always say:

    If you ain’t got the do re mi, boys, you ain’t got the do re mi,
    Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
    California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
    But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
    If you ain’t got the do re mi.

    Comment by vigi — October 21, 2015 @ 1:44 pm

  33. I bike to work, does that give me standing in this exchange?

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  34. 32. The difference is that these are not Dust Bowl and Northeast migrants. These are the children and grandchildren of those folks who finished college, tried to start a life in their home state and realized we weren’t being offered the same deal as our parents.

    Comment by BMac — October 21, 2015 @ 2:05 pm

  35. 33. Some. On the overlap between economic and environmental policy.

    Comment by BMac — October 21, 2015 @ 2:06 pm

  36. #28 – Carol, I grew up in Iowa City and I can attest that it by no means has a population of 153,000 people. Maybe if you count a whole bunch of the surrounding rural areas and small towns that are nearby you can get to that population. It is very similar to Alameda in size. The comparison wasn’t to find an exact replica of Alameda, it was to show that, in fact, most cities zone most of their land for single family residences – which was one of the points Lauren was making. And, great song.

    Comment by david burton — October 21, 2015 @ 2:28 pm

  37. 36

    Can you explain how the share of multifamily construction is rising when the majority of the country zones against it?

    Comment by dave — October 21, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

  38. Having just spent a week in Cuba, this discussion is so out of whack with the real world it staggers my imagination. I am not talking about poverty – true poverty, but total lack of access to choice no matter what one earns because someone else gets to say where you live and where you work, pretty much. I agree with the poster who talked about our “normal” and what it means to housing availability. In our abundance and in our free society, we have a plethora of choices even when we complain that our salaries or the cost of housing or the distance to work narrow them. Ah, reality, such an inconvenience when we want to feel ill treated because we can’t have all that we want!

    Common sense would lead us all to insure that we have a good mix of all sorts of housing types (affordable meaning what one can afford, not low income) to suit singles, families, older folk, the working poor, and those with physical or mental limitations. There has to be good public transportation and room for people to park whatever it is they use as transport (cars, bikes) without setting aside more space for parking than we actually need because people get all excited about parking more than a few steps from their front door as if that were some kind of right. We need open spaces and walking/biking paths near whatever kind of housing we build, be it single family or multi family. Shopping, places to work and recreate should be handy so people don’t have to be so dependent on cars.

    Our great idol, the single family home with the green lawn and the three car garage is neither a prudent nor a cost effective goal for everyone. Nor does it make for communities that work well in terms of sociability.

    Comment by Kate Quick — October 21, 2015 @ 2:50 pm

  39. Is Cuba now “the real world”, Kate?

    Comment by vigi — October 21, 2015 @ 2:57 pm

  40. 38. Good luck getting people to ever be content and not strive for more. I’ve never been a fan of the argument that goes something like this: “don’t be outraged about that, because there is a bigger outrage somewhere else that should be fixed before you can feel entitled to be outraged about.”

    Just because Alameda, California, USA today is preferable to Cuba, isn’t going to stop people from trying for a better Alameda tomorrow.

    Comment by BMac — October 21, 2015 @ 3:00 pm

  41. Back to what the article says…no one has disputed, as far as I can tell, the central point of Lauren’s post, that land-use restrictions favor those who own housing stock, either to rent out or to live in.

    Stories about saving to get a house (or being smart and MIT-educated enough to inherit one) and the fact that it’s sunny in California are neither here nor there. It’s always been sunny and there are always people who struggle. BMac’s comment about the rise in price/income ratios is the most relevant here. That’s an objective measure of how much more difficult it is for younger workers.

    It’s about inter-generational wealth redistribution pure and simple. (Kick in Prop 13 and the transfer becomes greater still.) Baby boomer beneficiaries: you’re welcome, but please stop the sermons and be graceful in your good fortune.

    Ed Glaeser, referred to in the article, is an excellent economist (and, no, I don’t always share his views).

    Comment by BC — October 21, 2015 @ 5:35 pm

  42. We should always strive for more. More, to me means a community with a mix of housing types that meet the needs of our varied residents, not a single family haven. The point I was trying to make about Cuba is that people there have no real options as we do. We should recognize that we can, as a community , choose to provide options broadly rather than insist that one or two ideal kinds of housing are the only ones we allow

    And yes, Vigi, Cuba is real. Just as real as Alameda, but oh so different. A beautiful place in some respects and a terrifyingly ugly place in other.

    Comment by Kate Quick — October 21, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

  43. 42. ahh. ok. I’m with you. I think.

    Comment by BMac — October 21, 2015 @ 7:48 pm

  44. Yeah, Kate. I got one of those ads to “Visit Cuba as an Educational Ambassador…Be One of the First to Go!”, too. Congratulations on getting there first. When I go to Cuba, I want to return with one of those cool American cars from the 1950’s. Imagine how the USA could pump up Cuba’s economy by taking all of those classic autos off their hands! Give each Cuban a nice Fiat 500e in exchange, I say. Only Americans should drive such Gross Polluters. Hey, what’s the upper speed limit on the Cuban Autobahn anyway?

    I wonder what Kate thinks of Argentina? Your last sentence sounds like a description of the drive between Buenos Aires and its airport.

    Remind me never to mention MIT in a post here, ever again. What’s the matter, BC…did MIT reject your application?

    Comment by vigi — October 22, 2015 @ 11:25 am

  45. I bought my house in 1988. It was at the height of the market at that time and there were many times we were outbid. The only reason we got the house (we were told much later) was because the sellers chose us over higher bidders because the higher bidders were Asian and the sellers “didn’t want to do that to their neighbors.” It shocked and upset us but the deal was already done. It was $225,000. The value went down for several years after that and we even got our property taxes reduced. If you don’t like being lectured by Baby Boomers, keep in mind what we had to put up with from “The Greatest Generation.” My dad actually did walk 3 miles to school in the snow. You’ll have your turn some day.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — October 22, 2015 @ 12:36 pm

  46. BTW: 10/22/2015 TONITE, Thursday night, at Mastick Senior Center, at 7 PM, Tim Lewis Communities will be holding another “public meeting” regarding their developments in Alameda. That’s all I know. I haven’t seen any notices about it and as of yesterday, even Mastick didn’t know about it. But Donnatella confirms that Tim Lewis has reserved the hall so it must be happening.

    Comment by vigi — October 22, 2015 @ 1:23 pm

  47. Denise: you’re right! Ever since Socrates, people have been bemoaning the youth. I’m already failing to understand millennials.

    Comment by BC — October 22, 2015 @ 3:30 pm


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