Wiener’s housing bill won’t boost affordable housing
POSTED: 03/09/18, 11:01 AM PST
Author: Niccolo Caldararo
Publication: Marin Independent Journal: Marin Voice
State Sen. Scott Wiener (Marin Voice, Feb. 25) makes a number of assertions about housing needs and his own legislation to cure the lack of affordable housing with measures that have limited the rights of citizens to control the growth and type of growth their cities and towns might experience.
The logic here is that voters and property owners do not know how to handle democracy on the one hand or their own property environment on the other.
As a voter and a property owner, I think Sen. Wiener, a former San Francisco supervisor, needs a lesson in civics.
His legislation puts the fate of our towns in the hands of developers and bureaucrats and constrains property owners from protecting the value of the investment by voting for local representatives and by passing legislation (sometimes by initiative or referendum).
He thinks we should not have property rights on the local level. He seems to think that people in Sacramento know what is best for us.
But the past 60 years has seen a general reduction of local control of zoning by a number of Sacramento laws, all driven by the idea that by giving free rein to developers we will have more affordable housing.
Yet this theory has failed.
The situation regarding affordable housing is a crisis. One only needs to look at the California Budget and Policy Center’s September 2017 study showing that “high rents are one of the major causes of poverty in our state.”
Wiener has made the argument in the past that environmentalists are responsible for high rents, a position that is undermined by the 2003 study by the Public Policy Institute of California which looked at changes in housing law that have limited the ability of local authorities in controlling housing, as in housing elements and other local influences on housing, including zoning.
The study found these limitations on local control had little effect on the production of affordable housing. However, people like Wiener have been pushing more restrictions on local elected officials’ influence on housing development supposedly to produce more housing.
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos stated in an op-ed piece that San Francisco had produced 23,000 units of luxury units and only 1,200 units affordable for middle class families in the previous seven years. Given the fact that Mr. Wiener served as San Francisco supervisor for five of those years one wonders why he did not force his proposed law on the people of San Francisco and reduce his own power as a supervisor to influence housing?
Why has San Francisco destroyed more affordable housing to make way for luxury housing? San Francisco has one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation.
Supporters of Wiener’s position invoke supply-and-demand theory to explain the need for housing, but they misunderstand how it works. Cities in America do not build housing today. Some did in the past, and a few are attempting to do so again.
In the 1970s, I was part of a group of housing advocates who helped set up community development corporations and I sat on the board of one. We built housing and the process was daunting in the attempt to produce affordable units.
Basically Wiener seems ignorant of the fact that most all housing is built by private builders, aided by banks and investors who want to make the highest profit possible. People want to charge for rents and for a return on loans for construction what the market will bear.
Yet if Wiener wanted to really do something about affordable housing the state could produce housing. Some legislators want a state bank to process marijuana producers’ income.
Such a bank could be also a housing development bank; so we could solve two problems at once. Let’s be constructive, work together and avoid the posturing.
*Niccolo Caldararo is an anthropology professor at San Francisco State University. He is a former member of the Fairfax Town Council.
To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/opinion/20180309/marin-voice-wieners-housing-bill-wont-boost-affordable-housing