This is an issue that I know a lot of HN readers care about and I'd encourage anyone interested to get involved. (Feel free to reach out to CA YIMBY, your local representatives, or any of the other organizations doing good work in the field.)
Bad housing policy is one of the biggest impediments to overall economic growth and to individual economic opportunity in the US. Our current restrictive policies disproportionately hurt poorer, younger, and (frequently) non-white people. I really hope we can change them.
 From the Obama administration: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images...
I would say it is the defining problem of our generation. The 20-30 year olds now who grew up in the bay area and aren't involved in tech have three options: Live with your parents until they die, work 40 hours a week just to feed yourself and pay the rent (split with random roommates), or move away from your entire family and support network. They live in a world where literally just being able to afford your own place is considered "bougie". It's insane. They can't even comprehend that there is a world where grown adults can live on there own and afford a respectable place to live while (gasp!) also saving for the future.
I think you could make a clean argument it's a 1a / 1b sort of problem. Housing & healthcare are two of the most basic needs in a modern society, and both have systemic issues across much of the country.
In NYC, saving up for the down payment on an apartment with a 30-year lease basically requires being able to hold a reasonably high-paying job for 3 years. Real estate is definitely way overpriced, but it's not exactly insane either.
Housing is also a root cause of a lot of other issues. Equity. Environment. Health. Upward/downward mobility. Ethnic integration. And so on.
Everybody needs health care. Perhaps there's someone who wins the lottery and makes it through life without a doctor - though most don't get through their very first moments without one - that doesn't seem like something to plan on.
Also, there are non-illnesses, such as giving birth, where a doctor is needed.
And there are accidents ...
It would to me be weird to see an argument that there is a housing shortage problem in Chicago, which has a pretty reasonable median home price, and where the median home is within a much more reasonable commute to the city center than most SFBA homes.
I assume (without evidence!) that this is true throughout the midwest and throughout the 2nd tier of US cities.
And the housing contagion spreads. For example most of the province of BC that Vancouver has similar housing affordability issues. Same with Toronto and many hours away from it. About %70 of the Canadian population lives somewhere heavily unaffordable.
Then you add the problem that most jobs are in these cities and it makes it even worse.
Look at this list of unaffordable metros for example:
The US stands out as having a good collection of affordable metros, the but rest of the world is worse and california is horrible.
Yes, real estate prices are heavily inflated but you can rent for a decent price in both of those metropolitan areas. I would find it very difficult to believe 70% of the population around the GTA can not afford to live where they are.
It could work if the city is constantly building enough new housing -- but if the city has the will to allow that, they wouldn't have needed rent control.
Fortunately there are tens of millions of other metros to live in
On a more serious note, realistically this number is much smaller for each person. After you take into account the ones you could legally live in, ones you can speak the language for, ones with good job prospects. A person in the USA is lucky to have tens of options. For people in smaller countries the options are likely to be under a dozen.
It's interesting to hear Chicago doesn't have a housing shortage though, having pretty much all my roots and social ties in coastal cities it does feel to me like this problem is everywhere.
I now rent a run-down, 350-sqft apartment in NYC for $2k/mo.
People on the coasts seem wildly out of touch with the housing situation in the Midwest. Cheap housing is the norm. It's simply not a problem in most of the country.
Almost all major American cities are having the bottom fall out in slow motion, and it ends up having repercussions everywhere. The absurdity of someone having to have 2 jobs to survive being a _real thing people say to people struggling in cities_ is the most American response to a problem.
It's obviously not just "rezone all the things", but the fact that people care so much about real estate, and that there are so many people who have vested interests in making it hard for poor people to be able to live at least somewhat close to their jobs is awful.
I want to believe it's a hard problem (because we haven't fixed it yet). But at this point I have seen soooooo many places outside the US that have almost no problem with this issue that I now have a hard time thinking it's anything other than rich white people wanting what they want.
The thing about systemic racism is that even if every participant is legitimately trying to give everyone a fair chance, the existing systems (artifacts of redlining, for example) are still biased in a certain direction, and will end up giving discriminatory results.
"Black people with upper-middle-class incomes do not generally live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Sharkey’s research shows that black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000."
There is still the issue that many POC don't even get this opportunity to be selfish, but that discussion doesn't lead to much
It's very likely I'm falling into the trap of the compelling narrative that matches a worldview, but I used to not have this worldview...
There are so many stories that ultimately end up with some narrative like "people with $2 million homes don't want to let other people have $200,000 apartments", and reading that over and over makes me pretty jaded about prospects.
(I'm not sniping at what Stripe is doing; I think SFBA housing is a worthy problem in its own right.)
In this instance, the problem really is bigger than just silicon valley's bubble.
The problem isn't actually doing that, the problem is when you can't actually pay the rent on the money you earn. Both you and your potential employer lose out when you're hired because you're perhaps not quite good enough to warrant the $150k+ salary required, or because there's always going to be someone a bit better at that rate. It's not about not wanting to take the job at $80k, or the company not wanting you at that rate, it's that you can't afford a sustainable lifestyle at that salary. Never making it onto the first ladder, you're never going to climb it (or, you're going to climb it much, much slower). This also feeds into education credentialism as a "shortcut" to access this ladder - etc, etc.
The people who actually make it onto the ladder are for the most part going to be fine.
1: Adjust for the numbers that are true, these are just rough ballpark figures. The point it, that threshold exists.
Respectfully disagree. I would say it is a defining symptom. The problem is centralisation and the insistence that people need to show up to an office to do their work. There is plenty of cheap housing even in the US, the issue is to let people work from where the housing is rather than insisting they move to "where the jobs are".
IMO Stripes money would be better spent on telecommuting policy and technology.
There will always be area's more popular for whatever reason. Those that want to spend their money on an address can do so but every-one else needs some assistance to work from an address that suits them and their budget.
I guess to more specifically address your proposal of having jobs elsewhere via remote working, I would say, why not more density here. We did it once before, turning prime farmland into suburbs. Is the current configuration really the end of history for this valley? I would argue not, if only by counter-example of cities allowing ever larger office buildings to be built along 237.
I have worked remotely for a number of years, and it's not for everyone. I didn't like it until after I got used to the loneliness and would look forward to going to the office. To repeat an observation from another reply, not all jobs can be performed from a remote location.
I used to be a pro-telecommuting as a long term solution. But having experienced telecommuting and also car-optional cities, I've since changed my stance. There is a big difference between online buzz and the buzz of being in the middle of a busy, safe mixed-use neighborhood.
This also ignores the non-work reasons people might want to live in an area, as well as the positive network effects from higher urban density.
Actually I don't understand why it's bad option especially if you replace random roommates with friend/gf/bf.
But I believe that one purpose of civilization is to make life fair.
Not to give everyone an equal slice, but to give them an adequate slice so that they have a fair shot at having a healthy, productive, satisfying life. As someone who has more than I need (not by a ton, but all my bills are paid, and I have some surplus), I want to share it effectively at least with those who are struggling through no fault of their own.
Only because the economic urge to live in one place has become compelling.
They do make quite a bit of income off tech workers though.
The articles and book you cite are excellent ones, and I'd highly recommend them to anyone interested in this issue.
I have a bunch more here, too: https://bendyimby.com/2017/06/12/yimby-reading/
Especially in smaller communities, it is quite common to see a major ideological divide between those fleeing Cali and everyone else who lives there.
I agree. I think this mindset is cancerous to society. Being all up in everyone's business is part of what creates things like asinine zoning, the war on drugs, etc.
CA housing policy has hurt many places outside CA, Denver for example.
Let's get this straight: migration happens many places, and for many reasons. The population of California is increasing, not decreasing. The population of the entire country is increasing. Urban areas are growing at the expense of rural areas (and, to a lesser extent, suburban areas).
There is no such thing as California "driving their own residents out". People moving from CA to other places may have been born here, or they may have only lived here for a few years. It's not a zero sum game. Populations are increasing. Migration is happening, everywhere.
I moved to California from the Northwest, where I was born and raised. Where folks who have lived there for 10 years whine about Californians "ruining the place", but have never thanked me for leaving. The majority of people I know moved to CA from out of state, but we don't blame Michigan or Ohio for our problems. We have a strong economy, and we're trying to accommodate people.
Demand drives up costs if supply doesn't keep up. They were blaming California when I lived in the Northwest in the 80s. They're blaming it now.
I was listening to an NPR show just last night, about alleviating housing concerns. One pertinent quote was that, when you buy a house, you are not entitled for the view out your window to never change ever, for the traffic to never change ever. This is the YIMBY movement -- to accommodate additional people. This is exactly the opposite of what people like yourself are doing. It's pretty ironic that, in an article about trying to solve housing problems by accommodating people, you're being petty and negative and playing the blame game. All of the same things that lead to these exact same problems.
Say what you want about California, but we're not blaming outsiders for our problems, unlike other populated regions in the west.
This just isn't true? It's pretty easy to quantify in terms of net inflows or outflows. And it turns out, California is a net people exporter:
> Last year, California had 142,932 more residents exit to live in other states than arrive, according to an analysis of a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, released Wednesday, Nov. 15. This “domestic net outmigration” was the second-largest outflow in the nation behind New York and just ahead of Illinois and New Jersey. And it was up 11 percent (13,699 net departures) vs. 2015.
> California’s net outmigration has been ongoing for two-decades-plus.
"How? Primarily through foreign immigration — 332,197 new residents from other lands in 2016 — and more births than deaths."
My comment and complaint was with the characterization of "their own residents", which sounds an awful lot like "you people", and the attendant implications that it's the fault of "the other", and that Oregon/Washington/Colorado/wherever are victims rather than merely other states impacted by the same factors California is -- namely, a booming economy, inflows to more urban areas, rising property values, growing wage gaps, etc.
But the attitude we get from the "victims" is that they have a god-given right to have their regions remain the same as they've ever been, and must therefore find a scapegoat (California) for all of their problems.
Right. Doesn't change the inflow/outflow dynamic.
> it's the fault of "the other", and that Oregon/Washington/Colorado/wherever are victims rather than merely other states impacted by the same factors California is -- namely, a booming economy, inflows to more urban areas, rising property values, growing wage gaps, etc.
Sure, I follow you. Nevertheless, the hypothesis that outflows from CA would be lower if CA housing were less expensive (because supply was less constrained) is a reasonable one, IMO. Do you disagree?
In that context, it is arguably correct to attribute (some) inflows from the state to CA's expensive housing policies, which are in many ways worse than other states.
Despite what some may think, expensive housing doesn't benefit anyone, not even those who own the housing. Not, unless you're willing to leave the area, then you can cash out and live like a king.
That's increasingly the problem in CA. Current residents have spent so much on housing that their only chance for a decent retirement is of their home values keep going up. They've paid so much that they haven't contributed nearly enough to their retirement accounts.
You can hardly blame a NIMBY if nearly 100% of their net worth is tied up in their home value and falling home values will result in them having 0 retirement and no ability to sell their home and move because they are so far underwater.
But if it is an identification of a problem? I think it is fair. The amount of misery that NIMBYs can spread through forced inaction significantly outweighs the amount received in the case of action, I think.
Texas has very high per capita carbon emissions, but Oregon and Washington, which is where a lot of the complaining comes from, are pretty comparable to California.
Now, city dwellers do evidently have lower carbon emissions per capita. As you can see from the chart, New York state and Washington DC have very low carbon emissions per capita, driven by large urban populations.
California does have a favorable climate that keeps energy use and emissions down. But so does much of the Northwest, and urbanization clearly has a lot to do with per capita emissions.
In short, if you're concerned about carbon emissions, you should probably support density everywhere, not just in California.
Many more people leave California to go to Arizona and Texas than to Oregon and Washington.
Your links about where people move are interesting, but I don't think they support the notion that the big problem is people moving out of California per se. California "keeps" a very high percent of it's population - only Michigan and Texas are higher. This is a little tricky to measure - California (and Texas) are big states, with several large urban centers. When someone moves from SF to Los Angeles (or from Dallas to Houston), that's considered in "in-state" move, whereas when someone moves from New York to New Jersey, that's an out of state move. That could throw off the numbers. The links do show higher domestic out-migration from California in absolute numbers, but there's still a lot of in-migration as well (perhaps higher as a percentage of population? Not sure...). And Oregon and Washington are up high on the list of out as well as in-migration, even if they aren't at the absolute top (again, keep in mind, Texas is a big state - you'd expect a lot of movement between two large states like this).
One very important thing to keep in mind is from your link about "close access" and "contagion" cities. The idea (for anyone who doesn't want to follow, though I do encourage you to read the links) is that places like SF or LA are closed off because they're so expensive, but sprawl into inland California occurs.
Within this context, from an emissions point of view, Californians moving to Seattle or Portland could be more desirable than staying in CA if they're moving to sprawl inland. Then again, this may cause displacement into sprawl elsewhere.
I'm pretty sure we agree that it's undesirable for people to leave California (or sprawl into inland areas) because of NIMBY building codes. The part I can't get behind is that people should stay in California rather than moving elsewhere for carbon emissions purposes. The data you showed overwhelmingly supports the notion that certain types of density are desirable, but again, the notion that CA should pursue this kind of growth so that other cities don't have to (while the US accepts 1.2 million immigrants a year)? Nope, I completely reject that idea.
I support it here, but Seattle, Denver, Portland are going to need to grow, intelligently too. I'm not interested in doing this so others can keep people out.
* A decent paying job in tech
* In a neighborhood where I could walk to do things with my friends
* But my friends didn't all have astronomical salaries
* I could ride a bike without getting screamed at
* My child could ride her bike to school without getting run over by a car
* (Unrelated but while I'm at it) - I could take a true vacation or weekend and nobody would dream of asking me how they reach me on said vacation.
I don't know of a single place in the US that meets these criteria. At one point I might have said Portland but the nicer areas there are getting very, very expensive.
I realize this counters my own statement (after all Dublin IE has some of the same problems as the bay wrt housing) but there are still cities in Europe offering what I stated.
It's really pretty shockingly easy to move here as a US expat too. I'd be happy to talk to people about how to do it (or if you want to work at Apollo Agriculture we can really just do it all for you.)
It falls flat on housing, though, mostly because rents and buying costs are up 80% or so in the last few years. When I moved here it was quite affordable.
It also fails badly on:
But I'm in the Dublin Cycling Campaign and pushing to make that better.
If I were moving _now_ I'd be looking closely at Utrecht. Another person mentioned Lausanne which I admit has me a bit envious too; looks to be quite reasonable https://www.immoscout24.ch/en/flat/rent/city-lausanne
I live in near the Spokane/CDA region. Spokane is the major city, an hour from where I live, as I live in a rural area. Boise is also nice and would offer the same.
Larry, Sergey, Mark, Marc, Marc, and Larry all should be actively helping these efforts to make housing more affordable to their employees and those of the companies that they invest in. And they all can afford a similar contribution far more easily than you and Stripe can.
A fair number of tech companies donate to SPUR, which does policy analysis/writing, advocacy, etc., including Dropbox, Salesforce, Netflix, and others.
That said, I was disappointed to see last year that Google apparently joined about the month I did (as opposed to, say, a decade ago) and were donating at some small level (sub-50k/year, Microsoft was in a higher donation bracket ffs). The amount of fighting Google is willing to do in Mountain View while ignoring the rest of the bay astounds me.
Google’s plans may turn Diridon Station—an expanding transit hub with a high-speed rail stop in the works—into the Grand Central of the west. The move could catalyze an even more urbanized San Jose, and signal that density transit-oriented development is part of the Valley’s future.
The developing urban core of the largest city in Silicon Valley, a region stuck in a mostly suburban mindset, adjacent to what will be the confluence of seven different rail and bus lines.
This article is about a big-ish tech company championing YIMBY. Google is building 10,000 housing units ( https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/12/googles-massive-housi... ), Facebook is building 1,500 ( https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/07/investing-in-menlo-park... ) and Apple put forward $75 million to improve transit in Cupertino ( http://www.cupertino.org/home/showdocument?id=15623 ).
I'm guessing Page, Ellison, Zuck, Andreesen, ...
But that leaves another Marc?
I use Stripe for my small business and it has been nothing short of incredible.
Now to hear that you're jumping into this housing crisis is absolutely amazing. It gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, if more big players get behind this movement, some REAL CHANGE might happen in California.
You guys didn't have to do this, but you're doing it because it's the right thing to do and that is awsome.
So I just want to extend a sincere thank you.
They could give that money to someone else, e.g. to some of the low income housing groups that have existed for a while and who have not been pegged as tech proxies already.
And that group is now pegged as a tech proxy.
Is anyone pursuing that?
I feel that the YIMBY idea is a good first step, but it is far from an end all solution.
And then proceeded to say a bunch of stuff that makes me think you don't believe this assumption.
Think through your own example. Even if landlords collude, "still charging $3-4k a month rent", and more units open up, eventually some of those units will not be rented. Dormant units do not generate revenue, regardless of the asking price. If even more units are added, more landlords will continue to collect $0 on their dormant units.
Landlords then have two options: continue to ask for $X dollars and get $0 or ask for $X-Y dollars and get $X-Y dollars. If $(X-Y) > $0, the law of large numbers, empirical studies, and common sense dictate that landlords will choose option B.
Prices could stay high, however, if more people move to the area, increasing demand to match supply.
> Prices could stay high, however, if more people move to the area, increasing demand to match supply.
I think that's key. Places that are seen as the most desirable to live in tend to attract people. If housing got (temporarily) cheaper, more people would move in and it would return to a similar equilibrium.
I think this problem is best fixed by creating more desirable places to live, not by trying to find a way to pack more people in (though efforts to reduce housing prices are admirable and worth doing).
Something I've wondered a lot about is if it's possible to create desirable cities deliberately, rather than let them spring up naturally. (Obviously a lot of developers have tried to do that as a way of making money, but I suspect you could get better results if you set out with the primary aim of creating a pleasant place to live and work and structured it as a non-profit.)
There's effectively infinitely much suburbia in America already. It's the "packed in" experience (walkable streetscapes, transit-connected mid- and high-rise housing, etc) that's scarce, and that we need more of.
There exist values for X and Y where $X * 12 months < $Y * 8 months, and if the landlord believes the market will be that much higher in 4 months, then the unit stays empty.
This is a well-founded belief only because demand is increasing faster than supply.
No takers; the real-estate folks thought that prices were going back up and that they'd be better off with empty buildings, primed for when the economy recovered than accepting money from the likes of me.
(The other bit is that rent control is not the whole of this... In california, rent control mostly doesn't apply to anything modern.)
You really gotta understand that law to understand this debate; that law is essentially why the poor oppose most of these 'yimby' ordinances; the buildings that would be demolished are rent controlled in SF, and under that law would be replaced by units that are not rent control.
If you don't understand that,the opposition from the poor simply doesn't make sense, because more units, in a free market, wouldn't drive up rents for anyone... but in a market with rent control, if you demolish rent control housing and replace it with market rate housing, you have less housing available for the poor.
(scott wiener and other yimby types often respond by adding a certain number of affordable housing units and/or prohibit tearing down existing rent controlled places. The latter pushes new construction to more commercial/industrial spaces, which if you ask me, is just fine, as it usually means more mixed-use kind of construction)
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
I don't think collusion is easy in a market with so many landlords. Here's an article about Denver prices dipping a few years back due to - you guessed it - lots of supply:
Supply and demand. Demand dropped during the financial crisis. They would also drop with enough supply.
If we assume prices are lowered maybe John decides room with Matthew only instead of with Matthew, Ashley and Jaheim.
There is massive opposition within the poorer, non-white bay area community to the political group that Stripe is funding here. CA YIMBY [EDIT: correction, should read YIMBY Action] literally shouted down minority activists who were opposed to a housing bill at a recent protest. The LA Times just published a good overview of this issue yesterday. The title: "A major California housing bill failed after opposition from the low-income residents it aimed to help. Here's how it went wrong"
Money quote: "'The YIMBY movement has a white privilege problem,' said Anya Lawler, a lobbyist with the Western Center on Law & Poverty, a legal advocacy group and adversary of SB 827. 'I don't think they recognize it. They don't understand poverty. They don't understand what that's like, who our clients really are and what their lived experience is.'"
Concessions to protect low-income residents were added to the failed bill only after substantial protest from the community. Let's hope next time around, instead of just claiming to act on behalf on poorer and non-white people, they actually try listening to them.
While no group is homogeneous in beliefs, polling very clearly shows that minority groups strongly support increased housing construction. (As does an overall majority of Californians.) On the micro level, groups like The 200 (community leaders of color) and experts like Richard Rothstein (author of Color of Law) have endorsed CA YIMBY's pro-housing policy work. See more at https://cayimby.org/endorsement/fair-housing-advocates/.
CA YIMBY was not involved in the protest you mention. I think you're confusing them with other groups.
"We note that some affordable housing and tenants' rights organizations have expressed concerns over SB 827. Recent amendments designed to safeguard local inclusionary zoning ordinances, protect local residents from displacement through a statutory 'right to remain' guarantee, and prohibit demolition of rent-controlled housing, which we applaud, helps to address some of these concerns."
None of these amendments would have happened without protest from low-income and minority housing advocates against CA YIMBY's work. The letter "applauds" these changes and even supports "additional legislation to expand inclusionary zoning." It merely concludes that "the perfect must not be the enemy of the good" and recommends a compromise.
This is far from an endorsement of CA YIMBY's work. In fact it reads as an endorsement of the opposition and resulting amendments.
> While no group is homogeneous in beliefs, polling very clearly shows that minority groups strongly support increased housing construction.
The minority groups who opposed SB 827 support increased housing construction -- just with better protections against displacement than what CA YIMBY has been pushing. To suggest otherwise is a false dichotomy.
Thank you for the correction on which YIMBY group shouted down the minority housing activists.
No, they don't. Organizations like SFTU do not support construction of any market-rate housing.
This is something we all should care about if we’re not just here to make a quick buck. Long term we need teachers and cooks and waiters and artists to keep SF a desirable place to live.
As PG himself said, “These independent restaurants and cafes are not just feeding people. They're making there be a there here.”
High-end condos don't generate jobs. They provide housing for the jobs that are already here and the new ones that are being created every day.
Raising the inclusionary zoning percentage to 50% will simply make it financially infeasible to construct housing. The City's own study confirms this. Tim knows this too, and that is why he advocates for it.
You completely missed the point. You are simply not taking into account the service industry jobs that arise to serve the new "high-end condo" residents. Baristas and teachers need BMR housing.
> a millionaire... who unfortunately is very good at couching his own financial and personal interests in the veneer of progressive language in order to co-opt groups... into working against their constituents' long-term self-interest.
Exactly the same criticism could be made of tech-millionare-backed, largely white YIMBY groups. The difference is minority and low-income housing activists are broadly opposed to YIMBY policies. Your only explanation is that they are victims of a rich white puppetmaster.
You should try listening to them better. You completely misrepresented their position earlier; even those that supported the passage of SB 827 did so after substantial amendments that arose from protesting the YIMBY-backed original bill.
Tim's article is yet another misuse of the Residential Nexus Analysis. For more info as to how that paper is abused:
https://www.nahb.org/en/research/nahb-priorities/zoning-and-... (an academic analysis)
Key point: "The Residential Nexus Analysis gets around all this by assuming that a new development of 100 units does not compete against existing housing but somehow attracts new residents who would not otherwise have looked for existing housing. At the same time, it assumes that the new housing units receive their price from the market. A more reasonable model would make the cost of housing endogenous by considering the new development a part of San Francisco’s housing stock which is desirable by existing residents."
In fact, I'm a walking example of this. I'm moving out of a rent controlled apartment in SF into a new condo in SF, freeing up my old relatively-affordable unit. If NIMBYs had their way, then I'd continue to be living there instead of someone who really needs that studio apartment.
Again: There is no debate among economists about whether California needs to build more market rate housing. The only debates are in the political sphere. This is an open and shut case.
> Exactly the same criticism could be made of tech-millionare-backed, largely white YIMBY groups.
YIMBY groups are diverse and reflect the diversity of the Bay Area, with LGBT especially well-represented. Their opponents like to erase representation of minorities to score political points, which is extremely disrespectful. For example, Gay Shame claims that you can't be "queer" unless you agree with their anti-development politics, which is at best bullying and at worst homophobic.
Notice I wasn't referring to anyone other than Tim Redmond. I'm well aware that NIMBY groups are also diverse.
> The difference is minority and low-income housing activists are broadly opposed to YIMBY policies. Your only explanation is that they are victims of a rich white puppetmaster.
Some minority and low-income housing activists are opposed to development. Others, such as nonprofit developers, supported SB 827.
It is not a controversial statement among anyone other than Bay Area activists that the lines cross against development in a bizarre way unique to San Francisco. It is not a controversial statement among economists that artificially restricting the supply of housing hurts the most vulnerable. From listening to SF "progressives" talk, you'd think that economists weren't completely united in opposition to rent control, which, of course, they are (and I'm not opposed to smart rent control, by the way).
> You should try listening to them better.
I have listened. I understand the concerns about gentrification and displacement. That doesn't change the fact that tenants' activists are wrong about what causes it.
You dismiss Tim Redmond's analysis based on his vested "millionaire" homeowner interest. Yet you cite an "academic" analysis paid for by the California Homebuilding Foundation. Completely hypocritical.
You attempt to paint the YIMBY groups as diverse and representative of low-income minority groups by citing only their LGBT representation. This blatantly disregards Latinx, AA and other minority groups that are disproportionately affected by the housing crisis.
You mischaracterize BMR as "rent control," then simplistically argue against that straw man. But economists do in fact argue that SF affordable housing developer fees can "improve housing affordability for low- and middle-income households, despite some loss of market-rate housing construction" because "prices are less important than land use controls in explaining whether a parcel will develop new housing." And even economists who argue against the downsides of rent control recognize it has "benefits" and argue for other forms of government "protection against rent increases."
It's sure a lot more affordable than the "luxury condos" everyone complains about. And, besides, the reason why it's likely to go to another tech worker is that there isn't enough housing. If the city were to cap the rent at $1,000 (post-Costa-Hawkins-repeal), then the units would still go to tech workers, because if there are many applicants landlords will nearly always rent to the richest.
> You dismiss Tim Redmond's analysis based on his vested "millionaire" homeowner interest. Yet you cite an "academic" analysis paid for by the California Homebuilding Foundation. Completely hypocritical.
I dismiss Tim Redmond's "analysis" because it's wrong and is based on talking points that have been debunked, as I explained. Tim has a history of making specious arguments, always in favor of NIMBYism. For example, Tim made a ludicrous claim a while back that most "luxury condos" are vacant, based on classifying of any listing of a homeowner with a different address as "vacant" (which excludes all rentals!)
The paper I described is academic, because it's written by an academic. Tim is not one.
> You attempt to paint the YIMBY groups as diverse and representative of low-income minority groups by citing only their LGBT representation.
Because it would be weird to namedrop people I don't know well in order to win an an argument on a message board that YIMBY groups are diverse. You are welcome to do your own research to confirm that there are plenty of ethnic minorities in YIMBY groups.
> You mischaracterize BMR as "rent control,"
I never said BMR/inclusionary zoning is rent control. Nor do I disagree with rent control, if implemented properly (see below)!
The problem with high inclusionary zoning percentages is that if they become too high developers won't construct housing at all. Developments have to pencil out, unless we fund them at public expense. (I want to do that as well, but that will be very hard in the current political environment, so in the meantime we have to pursue realistic policies.) Exclusionary suburbs know this—they create unrealistically high IZ requirements in order to prevent new housing from being built.
> And even economists who argue against the downsides of rent control recognize it has "benefits" and argue for other forms of government "protection against rent increases."
It's simply a fact that economists disagree with rent control. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-01-18/yup-rent-...
Government protection against rent increases is a good idea, as long as it's means-tested—tech workers like me shouldn't stand to benefit from it. For example, a progressive tax credit, as suggested in that paper, would be a great idea that would protect vulnerable renters.
Thank you for conceding that your studio is going to go to another tech worker. There goes the (non-academic) argument you just presented against Residential Nexus Analysis. The point stands that baristas and teachers need BMR housing.
> Because it would be weird to namedrop people I don't know well in order to win an an argument on a message board that YIMBY groups are diverse. You are welcome to do your own research to confirm that there are plenty of ethnic minorities in YIMBY groups.
You clearly lost this argument. You were going to "namedrop" some minorities? YIMBY groups are overwhelmingly white. An attendee of the first national YIMBY conference in Boulder noted "it's wealthy and tremendously (88 percent) white; and YIMBY’s racial demographics reflected that." YIMBY activists shouted down minority speakers at a recent protest. YIMBY "has a white privilege problem," and your comments only serve to reinforce that.
 Anya Lawler, Western Center on Law & Poverty quoted in http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-housing-bill-failu...
What I said is true in the aggregate. You're trying to argue that, because my one unit won't solve the housing crisis, we shouldn't build anything at all. That's silly. If we build enough market-rate housing, then eventually tech workers won't have to look downmarket. That will free up the lower end for others and lower rents to affordable levels. There aren't infinite tech workers.
The problem is that tech workers are competing for lower-end units at all. We will only solve that one unit at a time, by building a lot more housing at all levels.
Do you want tech workers like you and me to be taking up rent controlled studios?
> YIMBY activists shouted down minority speakers at a recent protest.
Sonja and Laura shouldn't have apologized for that, because they didn't "shout them down". They were simply chanting "read the bill". That is important, because the bill allows more construction of BMR housing. Since we agree BMR housing is important, telling protestors to read the bill is perfectly reasonable.
The problem could also be solved, (assuming building more at market rate housing) by simply paying the cooks and waiters and artists more. I mean, I'm a sysadmin, which is also 'support staff' and also doesn't require a degree... and I'm getting like twice here what I would elsewhere. I don't see why waiters should be any different.
I dunno about the last part. I personally perceive service and food around here to be incredibly cheap (compared to rent and wages for the sort of work I do) - There is, of course a demand curve, and raising prices will somewhat lower demand for the more optional kinds of service work, but we don't really know where that demand curve goes; personally, you'd have to double prices before I changed my consumption of locally produced services other than uber much at all.
Right now, my perception is that area stores and restaurants are massively understaffed and open very limited hours, presumably because they aren't charging enough to pay enough to hire enough people.
>Tech businesses are a bad compare because the revenue per employee is typically much higher than the service industry.
That was kind of my point. right now, local services are under-priced compared to tech worker wages and compared to rent. Of course, this is going to result in dramatically lower revenue per employee than if they charged a lot more.
A lot of the tech industry is also 1 on 1 service stuff. Depending on the day, my own work is more than half 1 on 1 kind of work that "doesn't scale" - but I still get paid a lot because the people I'm helping are valuable. Same principle applies to other kinds of support staff. If you support someone more valuable... you usually get paid more.
So you’d pay $26 per cocktail and $68 for a pork chop, but $15 is too expensive for an Uber. I find that hard to believe.
Even if true, you are not representative of SF consumers. A Harvard study notes, “higher minimum wages increase overall exit rates for restaurants. Higher minimum wages also reduce the rate at which new restaurants open by 4-6% per $1 increase in the minimum.”
 cited in https://pos.toasttab.com/blog/number-of-restaurants-in-san-f...
>So you’d pay $26 per cocktail and $68 for a pork chop, but $15 is too expensive for an Uber. I find that hard to believe.
I take uber to work every day. My boss is paying for a parking spot at work, my apartment is paying for a parking spot at home, so uber is competing with me, you know, buying a honda. Most of the infrastructure; most of the expensive part of owning a cheap car already exists and is being paid for regardless of my car ownership status.
Right now, Uber to work is usually unshared, as I'm usually in a hurry, and thats usually more than $10, less than $15. (the ride home is usually under $5, as it's the shared service.) - When I need to haul things, I rent a car or use a service. right now I'm already paying a reasonably high premium to sit in the back and read vs. owning and driving that honda. Would I pay twice that for an everyday commute? probably not.
I work at a place that prepares free (and really quite good) food for me three times a day, so I mostly only eat out on the weekends; I eat out a lot less than I use uber. A lot less, as sometimes I even cook for myself on the weekends (It's... kind of novel, after getting fed all week.)
Of course, even at 3x the price, I'd still use uber when I go drinking... it's just that I don't do that very often compared to how often I use uber to get to where I need to go every day.
(as another aside, I seem to have a higher threshold for cocktail prices than most people and a lower threshold for food prices than most people, I mean, compared with others with similar 'entertainment budget' - I think this is partly an awareness on my part of how expensive alcohol is in performance degradation... but also just personal preference. I really enjoy a good cocktail, and feel that there's a pretty big difference in enjoyment between a really good cocktail and a meh cocktail.)
>Even if true, you are not representative of SF consumers.
I... don't think my situation is that unusual for silicon valley customers. Most homes and most jobs come with free parking, (making the 'tipping point' for using uber much closer than in areas without abundant parking) and a smaller (but still large) number of jobs come with free food. (meaning we eat out less, and therefore can spend more when we do... also, I think, that we demand better food when we eat out. eating at IHOP is super disappointing after getting fed much better food every day as a simple reward for showing up to work before 10:30)
Okay, but if you 'fixed' that, then local services would be over-priced compared to non-tech-worker wages. Then where would non-tech-workers get haircuts or cognitive behavioral therapy?
If you have a mostly-fixed supply and you subsidize buying that supply, you just raise the price. In order to increase the number of people who are able to live their jobs, you need to change the physical structure of area near their jobs to have more housing.
You can't turn money into housing by just adding money. Only construction can do that.
I was responding to the objection that even if we were building unlimited new housing, the new stuff would be unaffordable to those on the bottom. And one solution to that is to pay them more relative to those on the top.
I think it's obvious to people who don't own or live in rent controlled places that we need more housing overall. I was just responding to the fair objection that more housing, by itself, isn't enough to house people who are massively underpaid.
"77% of Latinos, 69% of African Americans, and 64% of Asian Americans support building more housing in their local areas, compared with 53% of whites." Support for the same question is highest for those with incomes under $40,000 and lowest for those with incomes over $80,000.
There are plenty of YOUNG people (yes, including white people, successful people) who are struggling with housing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a push to fix housing for middle class workers. The conversation does not always, all the time, need to be about poor non-white people. Yes, they need help too, and YES we should work on solutions that benefit both groups. But constantly re-centering the conversation on the poor, means it's the middle class who consistently miss out on reform.
Which is a small band-aid that will never work. It creates lotteries where literally hundreds of people apply for a single home and one lucky person gets it. So one person is helped but the majority get nothing.
We need to actually fix the system, not create lotto winners.
Building more housing is a long term fix; even if we start building tomorrow with our maximum construction capacity, it's going to take a minimum of 15-20 years to make a really significant dent.
In the interim, protecting those who are most at risk is essential. And that means not only assistance at 60% of area median income (AMI), but also all the way up to 80% and even some amount of 120% AMI, in order to preserve some amount of economic breadth in communities like San Francisco.
The bandaids can't be the only policy, neither really can zoning be the only policy. It's going to take time to attract enough construction laborers to build everything we need to build!
According to what data?
Take it al with a grain of salt of course, it's just a newspaper columnist and not a full analysis but it's the best I've seen and he cites his sources.
The build rate required to hit that is about 65,000 units/year, which was about the rate that the Bay Area built at in 1971, which has severely tapered off since then:
That trend on not building in recent decades is state wide too:
However, everybody I hear talking about remodeling or building is saying that right now there's a construction labor shortage in the Bay Area, and we're nowhere near building 65k units per year, so it's going to take many years to build up the labor force and construction capacity too.
Building is a long term, but necessary fix to the housing crisis.
And of course any time you tried to put down an affordable housing complex, you'd have to fight the neighborhood. SF had a proposed 100% affordable housing complex in the Mission that got shot down by the neighbors. Even if the money was there, you'd have to deal with the fact that people hate living next to poor people. So we'd probably need another state assembly bill that said something like, "if this complex has 80% affordable housing units no municipality can block it," and given the inability to pass SB827...there's no way that's going to pass.
These are the kinds of things people should talk about, to move the Overton window. But anyway, as of now, building tons of public housing just isn't politically feasible.
The problem in San Francisco is that a lot of the affordable housing projects require zoning changes, and are therefore ineligible for SB 35 streamlining.
You should totally support California YIMBY, still. A weakness in the Housing Accountability Act is that the housing goals are very weak and unrealistically low. SB 828 would require the numbers to be more realistic.
I’ve been at neighborhood meetings, where people working for the Planning Department asked minorities what they wanted. The minorities, every single one, wanted the opposite of what the activists wanted.
* construction labor - no construction bill is going to get by without their approval
* tenant advocates - without their support it's quite unlikely that the bill will make it through all the way
Municipalities almost universally opposed SB 827, and state legislatures generally cede to them, but with the above two groups, SB 827 probably has fantastic chances.
Construction labor opposed it because currently the discretionary review process is where prevailing wages concessions can be extracted from a developer; construction labor doesn't want to miss out on that. Adding prevailing wages to SB 35 is what brought that group to the table. If labor can be brought on board for SB 827 like they were for SB 35, it's going to go far.
Tenant advocates are nervous about development in general, for very good reason, because that has been the primary way that low income neighborhoods have been destroyed. For SB 827 to come through, it has to be shown that it won't cause the same problems that past development focused on "blighted" areas caused. I think it's quite likely that this will happen because the non-profits that build affordable housing tend to like SB 827. Since SB 827 only hits current neighborhoods in a very few places, there are only a few neighborhoods to protect, so it seems possible to ensure proper protections directly in the bill or through other means.
It seems likely that SB 827 didn't have these groups included yet because the bill sponsors were surprised by the huge amount of press (including national!!) it received and momentum it gained. Given the very short amount of time to coordinate with these interest groups, I don't 100% blame the committee chair for killing it so soon. But with enough time some sort of transit-oriented development bill come through. It has to, both for California's housing crisis and for California's climate goals.
Also, it seems likely that "transit" oriented development will be weakened to just "rail" oriented development. In that case, the vast majority of municipalities won't be directly affected, and may actually have reason to support it. That's because it forces their neighbors who are slacking to actually allow people to build, and this should benefit all the municipalities that aren't affected. So it may be possible to split them.
Municipalities are a bit different from just NIMBYs though too, municipalities typically want office space and other business related development because it brings in tax revenue. Housing is seen as a negative to the city budgets, oddly, because of Prop 13.
NIMBY groups (which I am trying to use without an pejorative meaning, simply in reference to neighborhood groups), typically don't act at the state level, except through forcing their municipality to support or oppose specific measures. At least as far as I can tell. I'm still new to this landscape.
There should be a ton of videos accompanying this, right? All I could find was https://www.facebook.com/groups/vote123equity2018/permalink/... which looks like pretty standard protesting to me.
Yes, here is video of CA YIMBY shouting down minority affordable housing activists. The executive director of CA YIMBY apologized for her organization's behavior.
It continues to be primarily privileged white people who use zoning to prevent building of low-cost housing, discouraging multi-family units, discouraging non-traditional housing situations for workers, etc.
The DSA has a detailed stance on this which lays out what they want in a pro-housing bill. Well worth a read.
The crux of the disagreement comes from YIMBY pursuing housing at all costs believing the market, and prior art (such as other cities like Tokyo), showing that it will work out, and NIMBY wanting to preserve the lives of people that could become displaced by new housing.
I'm actually a great example of someone who has something to lose if YIMBY people get their way, but full disclosure: I support YIMBY. I'm living in a rent-controlled building in San Francisco, paying rent from 7 years ago (aka greatly below market) about 6 minutes walking to a BART station. I probably wouldn't be classified as "poor", but if new housing is built, most likely my unit could be torn down and replaced with a higher density building and I could be "displaced" (losing my rent control). But to get the deal I have you do not have to be in any way "poor"; you just have to be here first/a long time. In no way does NIMBY policy of preserving my right to stay here help poor people (as a group). In my opinion NIMBY's are protecting the "original" residents of an area that stand to have their rents increased because they are underpaying in a prime location.
SB827, and most pro-housing initiatives will cause many areas to be upzoned, increasing the market rates of certain areas, but more importantly, decreasing market rates overall. Of course this means that people like me living in prime areas at below market rates will lose out on this great deal.
NIMBY's prime argument seems to be that a lot of these people living in prime areas at below market rates tend to be poor people, but this is completely false. It has nothing to do with poor people. It only has to do about people who've been here first/a long time. This is the main point of their "preserving the character" of the neighborhood behind their rhetoric. That's why their platform is based around "affordable" housing, which means preserving these lower than market rate units for people that are already there.
If you want to help poor people, you'd increase housing overall to decrease rent overall, which is what YIMBY is after. From a poor person's perspective, they don't need to live in a prime area downtown, but for someone paying below market rent they would definitely want to keep that deal. If you want to help grandfather people into their below market rent, you support NIMBY.
Among the biggest threats right now to Bay Area tech companies are smart people (the only kind they’re trying to hire) crunching the numbers.
So yea poor people aren’t really under consideration other than for optics purposes.It’s high salary people versus high net worth people.
Highly cynical and all around awful? Yes.
There's huge amount of sentiment in California to keep new people out. So in order to punish newcomers some people are very willing to take on the negatives of rent control for those that have it--namely a huge lack of mobility once you have a place. Unfortunately that leaves all young people in the lurch, in addition to the newcomers from other places.
The idea of making it easier for people to move here is an absolutely radical and terrible idea, according to a large number of people here.
Although generally supportive of the Yimby movement in cities and the need to increase density, I am concerned that SB 827 (and similar) will steamroll the will of voters in smaller counties where staunch opposition remains.
Marin County, just across the bridge from San Francisco, is a good example: they have a strong history of opposition to housing development and density, and the overwhelming majority of Marin residents are opposed to top-down State measures to impose density requirements. This is quite different to San Francisco, where the YIMBY movement appears to have majority support (including me) and where a local jobs boom and office space increase has created a housing imbalance.
I would prefer that this is handled locally and am genuinely curious to know why the state government should be the interlocutor and arbiter?
If want to do what's best for everyone as a whole, you need higher levels of government to step in and represent those people who don't otherwise have a voice.
The Bay Area has really dysfunctional governance. We have 9 counties and lots of cities. Each one independently has incentives to attract jobs and offload housing to the other counties; though, some towns were incorporated specifically to prevent integration for racist reasons. The total result is that we have way more jobs than homes in the region, and unfunded pension liabilities, and mega-commutes, and advanced gentrification. It’s in the best interests for California as a state to override this whole mess with some reasonable baseline standards. That is what SB 827 was about.
I would prefer to see state measures that require cities to tie housing development to commercial development and jobs growth. Or even for SB-827 to be modified to exclude cities/counties that have maintained a balance. This would exclude Marin from SB-827, but would certainly still include SF and Cupertino.
(The Sausalito lawsuit is a separate matter to this discussion; its success demonstrated the effectiveness of existing state laws for that particular development.)
Homeowners in a city have an incentive to block housing construction. That hurts everyone who commutes into that city; those people deserve a say too, and they have one at the state level.
That's a fair point. (Although I would prefer to see it solved through fiscal incentives since the state is the one paying for transit construction.)
SB 827 was about allowing dense housing near transit. Wiener’s political rival held an anti-SB-827 rally next to a major transit stop with 3 light-rail train lines and a major bus line (and several minor bus lines). That location has a 26-foot height limit. If SB 827 had passed, those 1-story boutique shops could be replaced by 4-story apartments over retail.
This is one reason why I support London Breed for mayor.
I had a conversation with a friend a week back where we tried to estimate what is the reduction in economic growth due to the lack of a sane housing policy, and am happy to see that  addresses this question.
I feel like we need avoid latching onto the simplest solution to every problem and think outside of the box on this one.