Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 30, 2016

Growth of a nation, part 2

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

For those that aren’t going to read the whole White House toolkit, more excerpts:

Over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified, particularly in the high-growth metropolitan areas increasingly fueling the national economy. Locally- constructed barriers to new housing development include beneficial environmental protections or well-intentioned permitting processes or historic preservation rules, but also laws plainly designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing. Local policies acting as barriers to housing supply include land use restrictions that make developable land much more costly than it is inherently, zoning restrictions, off-street parking requirements, arbitrary or antiquated preservation regulations, residential conversion restrictions, and unnecessarily slow permitting processes.

Let’s see if Alameda fits the mold.

Environmental protections? Check!

Permitting processes? Check!

Historic Preservation? Check!

Laws designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing? Check!

Land use restrictions to make and more costly? Check!

Zoning restrictions? Check!

Off-Street parking requirements? Check!

Unnecessarily slow permitting processes? Check, and we can largely thank the City Council with its Calls for Review power for that.


[T]he intensity and impact of such barriers are most evident in the vibrant job-generating regions where fervent demand far outstrips supply.

The vast majority of the nation’s largest cities are feeling the crush of sharply increased housing costs outpacing wages, with 9 of the largest 11 cities seeing rising rents and tightening vacancy rates[.]

On the effects of these barriers:

The accumulation of state and local barriers to housing development – including zoning, other land use regulations, and unnecessarily lengthy development approval processes – has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. The increasing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, exacerbating income inequality by reducing workers’ access to higher-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions.

Emerging research has shown that in areas with high-cost housing such as California, zoning and other land-use controls contribute significantly to recent sharp cost increases, reflecting the increasing difficulty of obtaining regulatory approval for building new homes.


When barriers to housing development drive up rental and production costs, they constitute a countervailing force on housing assistance programs, reducing the impact of already-insufficient government resources for affordable housing. This strain on public resources occurs at all levels – federal, state and local. While President Obama’s budget calls for increasing investments to provide affordable housing and end family homelessness, HUD’s existing project- based and housing choice vouchers could serve more families if the per-unit cost wasn’t pushed higher and higher by rents rising in the face of barriers to new development. In order to build affordable housing, developers are often forced to supplement funding sources like tax credits with additional equities and loans, drawing down on state-allocated housing finance agency resources and city-held CDBG dollars. As each of these sources is piled onto a critical affordable housing resource, it is not available for preservation or additional new affordable housing elsewhere in the region.

Seriously though, before any of our City Council candidates talk about housing affordability issues this paper should be required reading.  Maybe then some of the more tired and oft trotted out excuses as to why we shouldn’t build more housing to boost our economy will actually be meaningfully challenged.



  1. Thanks for providing the informative excerpts from the Whitehouse Toolkit. Leading Silicon Valley businesses have recognized that the lack of moderately priced housing restricts their ability to recruit employees. These businesses are now seeking to build their own employee housing rather than rely on local builders, realtors and banks. High tech businesses are concerned that the market will enforce its own form of discipline on governments in the SF Bay Area that discourage housing construction. That market discipline is “No New Housing Then No New Jobs.”

    While there are legitimate concerns about managing population growth in our majestic region filled with natural wonders, current government polices biased toward jobs are forcing ever increasing numbers of long time service and now professional workers to either leave the Bay Area or stay and fall below the poverty line as competition for ever scarcer housing consumes more of their income. Those who advocate against new moderately priced housing in the Bay Area, yet advocate for new high paying jobs, are advocating to cleanse the Bay Area of their lower income neighbors. Eventually such economic cleansing of our region will expand to cleanse the SF Bay Area of new high paying jobs as well as the region’s economy stagnates and fast growing businesses find it easier to succeed in other locales that provide better access to workers with the range of technical and service skills they need to succeed.

    Comment by William Smith — September 30, 2016 @ 9:09 am

  2. The heading in a recent jobs/housing article in the SF Business Times reads:

    “If Bay Area can’t solve housing crisis, next company expansions will be in other cities, developer says”

    So if we want jobs in Alameda, we need to address the housing shortage in Alameda and ask where are the new workers going to live? The housing pipeline chart that Lauren listed previously shows that we built 108 units in 2015, and we are projected to build 108 units in 2016 and 225 units in 2017; a number that is very conservative if you look at other communities in the region. A number that is necessary if we are to do our share to meet the current housing and jobs demand in the Bay Area, and an absorption rate that shows that Alameda is committed to build the housing needed to attract new companies to Alameda. Like the article states above — if not companies will expand elsewhere where there is housing for their employees.

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 30, 2016 @ 9:41 am

  3. “When barriers to housing development drive up rental and production costs, they constitute a countervailing force on housing assistance programs, reducing the impact of already-insufficient government resources for affordable housing.”

    That whole last paragraph is a point that is often ignored in these discussions. The 1st degree consequences of NIMBYism are relatively straightforward. Some people don’t care and stick to the “Alamedans First” and “Preservation & Progress” mantras, AKA- “I got mine, the rest of you can fuck off.” But the 2nd degree consequence that a self imposed housing shortage has by making our affordable housing dollars less effective, covering fewer and fewer households, is typically ignored. I guess those folks spending their lives trying to find ways to house those among us with the least will just have to “get creative” with that giant pile of boomerang funds.

    Comment by BMac — September 30, 2016 @ 10:37 am

    • Pretty much so, like the commenter in the previous post declaring that the White House must fund another bridge or tunnel because that person doesn’t understanding affordable housing financing in general.

      Comment by Lauren Do — September 30, 2016 @ 10:43 am

  4. Not sure how you get not understanding affordable housing from a sarcastic White House remark. So be it. Yet you fail to acknowledge that Alameda has a growing strain on it’s infrastructure, is meeting it’s housing requirements that are set by the State and we’re an Island with no real solution coming for traffic problems anytime in the foreseeable future.

    Comment by FranklinB — September 30, 2016 @ 12:26 pm

    • The “growing strain on its infrastructure” (“traffic problems”) would disappear overnight if people in Alameda traveled the way most people in the civilized/industrial world get around: mostly on foot, on bicycles,or by public transit. And many of us could travel around the island–or islands–of Alameda using other means than a single-occupancy automobile.

      Most kids in grades 5-12 could ride their bikes or walk safely to school with their peers or siblings, for instance. They do not need to be shuttled around in infernal combustion vehicles. And many younger kids can walk to school with either parents or with older siblings and be perfectly safe if their routes are chosen properly from the SR2S options that are available for most schools.

      Changing our addictive habits and NOT driving cars everywhere would solve many problems all at once: we could be healthier from walking and bicycling more, our air would be cleaner, our individual and community carbon footprints would shrink, and we all might lose a little weight or become more fit, too….

      Comment by Jon Spangler — October 6, 2016 @ 11:30 pm

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