Opinions in the media go on about the fault of the NIMBYs and cities for the housing shortage. They claim that if we only remove zoning and environmental regulatory barriers the private sector will solve the problem. It will build a sufficient quantity of “market” luxury housing, with copious amenities, and, per supply and demand theory, it will drive down the cost for all.
They repeat this fallacy, despite all evidence to the contrary, of this housing version of “trickle down” economics.
Decades of related public policy has only produced the extreme income inequality that is the root of many of our problems today. Supply and demand theory assumes a free market and not our wealth-serving oligarchy.
On Craigslist alone there are 3,000 available rentals — if you can afford to pay $3,000 and up. This is not a housing shortage, it is a shortage of affordable homes. Building more “market” luxury housing will not solve the problem. The 2008 mortgage debacle and theft by Wall Street and associated financial institutions resulted in the perpetrators purchasing thousands of foreclosed homes for pennies on the dollar. These institutions, who were behind the schemes, then rented them out at “market” (inflated) rates. They, and other investors, continue to fuel the speculation that is a factor driving the inflated cost of housing.
The deregulation and down-zoning that is being touted as a solution to the housing problem is pushed by the real estate and investment industries. Real estate speculators are trolling for and snapping up homes to rent and flip with inflated, all-cash offers — the first-time home buyer does not have a chance. This is what needs to be regulated.
Legislation with real solutions for affordable homes is needed — not giving developers free rein to build where and how they please. We do not need to give up local control nor should we.
We should stop further zoning downgrades or financial incentives for development of additional luxury, high-rise buildings in our backyards or elsewhere until speculation is addressed and the financial services sector reined in. The impact of the paltry “affordable” units currently required will not solve the housing cost problem. In fact, these developer incentives are exacerbating it by pretending to be a solution, and fueling further speculation and cost inflation.
We have spent millions on fruitless homeless programs with little change. This could have been spent on actual affordable housing and social services. Stop feeding the “NIMBY spin” that enables this speculation, and discuss real solutions to create actual affordable homes, not speculative luxury “housing.”
Deborah Lardie lives in Montara.