A great article from the NY Times which touches on the shortage of housing in another popular region that is not the Bay Area but reveals that the arguments that are used in the Bay Area to stem the amount of housing built is not unique to the Bay Area. Even though the “uniqueness” is often used as a reason to not build.
From the NY Times:
But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy.
One reason they’re not migrating to places with better job prospects is that rich cities like San Francisco and Seattle have gotten so expensive that working-class people cannot afford to move there. Even if they could, there would not be much point, since whatever they gained in pay would be swallowed up by rent.
At this point some people will be thinking “so what”and invoking Darwin and survival of the fittest nonsense. Maybe those same folks will be rolling around the phrase “hard work” in their heads as if those without the ability to pay exorbitant housing costs somehow do not work hard.
The problem is as I’ve gone on about again and again, it’s our housing policy and the local political will that has created these shortages and continue to exacerbate the issue, more from the NY Times:
Zoning restrictions have been around for decades but really took off during the 1960s, when the combination of inner-city race riots and “white flight” from cities led to heavily zoned suburbs.
They have gotten more restrictive over time, contributing to a jump in home prices that has been a bonanza for anyone who bought early in places like Boulder, San Francisco and New York City. But for latecomers, the cost of renting an apartment or buying a home has become prohibitive.
And if it’s not enough for folks to be okay with other folks having shelter that is affordable, the economic impacts that these restrictions should make even the most hardened NIMBY take a step back and wonder “what if”?
And when zoning laws get out of hand, economists say, the damage to the American economy and society can be profound. Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like “maintaining neighborhood character” or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest.
The lost opportunities for development may theoretically reduce the output of the United States economy by as much as $1.5 trillion a year, according to estimates in a recent paper by the economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti. Regardless of the actual gains in dollars that could be achieved if zoning laws were significantly cut back, the research on land-use restrictions highlights some of the consequences of giving local communities too much control over who is allowed to live there.
The story also discusses Governor Brown’s by right housing initiative which has been opposed by many local cities and will probably be opposed by Alameda’s City Council as well. But what this story illuminates is that every city thinks they are special and that they can’t afford any more development, but the costs to not doing anything have been widely studied, people’s gut feelings about the negative possibilities have not.