Woman Was Asked “How is it like Being Homeless In Portland?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uyc15c9_5-g

January 4, 2023. Tags: , , , , . Housing, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Mice update

My previous post on this is here.

The tenant in the apartment next to mine was just evicted for hoarding. The company that cleaned it up filled up a giant dumpster all the way up to the top. I think the dumpster was about as big as the living rooms in our building. Anyway, I’ve caught 85 mice in my apartment. Now that she’s gone, I’m hoping that it stops. I did use 7 cans of Pestblock very recently, and that seems to be helping too. Real life mice are nothing like in the cartoons. Real life mice like to eat books – or at least chew and shred them to make nesting material. I feel sorry for my ex-neighbor for having a mental illness. But I also believe that people have free will, and that there’s no excuse for what she did to me and other people who live in this building.

December 21, 2022. Tags: , , , . Animals, Housing. Leave a comment.

Kingston, New York, orders landlords to reduce rent by 15%

The city of Kingston, New York, is ordering landlords to reduce their rent by 15%.

Pretty much every economist, even the ones on the left, agree that, in the long run, rent control reduces both the quantity and the quality of rental housing.

Rent control is great for people who already have a rent controlled apartment.

But it’s horrible for people who are looking for an apartment.

The Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck, a housing expert, said that “rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city – except for bombing.”

That being said, as a person who does not live in Kingston, I think this is a great experiment to see what the results will be. Will the results here be the same as in other cities that had rent control? Or will they be different? Contrary to popular belief, it was not actually Einstein who first said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Sources:

https://reason.com/2022/11/16/landlords-sue-over-city-mandated-15-percent-rent-cut/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_regulation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_control_in_the_United_States

https://www.businessinsider.com/misattributed-quotes-2013-10

November 17, 2022. Tags: , , , , , . Economics, Housing. Leave a comment.

Mice in my apartment

The tenant who lives in the apartment next to mine is in the process of being evicted for hoarding her trash. In the meantime, I have caught 73 mice in my apartment. I keep all my food locked up tight so they can’t get it. I’m not the one who’s feeding them. It’s my neighbor who’s doing that. Even if it is a mental illness, I still believe that hoarders have free will, and they know that the wild mice they are breeding are hurting every tenant in the building. The stuff they show on the Hoarders TV show? That stuff is real. The show is not staged. I hope my neighbor gets put in a medical facility where she can get the help that she needs. I’ve thrown out a lot of my stuff that got damaged. Mice chew on everything. And they pee and poop everywhere. I’m really angry at my neighbor. But I also feel bad for her.

October 2, 2022. Tags: , , , . Animals, Housing. Leave a comment.

Town After Town, Residents Are Fighting Affordable Housing in Connecticut

https://web.archive.org/web/20220904091054/https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/04/realestate/connecticut-affordable-housing-apartments.html

Town After Town, Residents Are Fighting Affordable Housing in Connecticut

By Lisa Prevost

September 6, 2022

In the town of Fairfield, Connecticut, nearly 2,400 residents have signed a petition opposing a project proposed for downtown that could bring 19 units of affordable housing.

In nearby New Canaan, homeowners have raised about $84,000 for a legal fund to fight a proposed apartment complex downtown on Weed Street that would include 31 rent-restricted units for households with moderate incomes.

And in Greenwich, a developer recently withdrew an application to build a project that would include 58 apartments priced below market rate, after residents living in nearby luxury condominiums objected

Throughout Fairfield County, Connecticut, local residents and elected officials are seeking to block large housing projects that include units affordable to low- and moderate-income households

The restrictive zoning “disparately harms Black and Latino households, and deepens economic and racial segregation in the area,” said Erin Boggs

That sort of suburban antipathy to density has contributed to a severe housing shortage in Connecticut, especially at the low- to moderate-income range

But many people who work in the towns cannot afford to live in them, said Karp, the developer.

“I already have a list of 20-plus people who work in town who would love to live here in a building that they could afford,” he said. “My view is, people who work in town deserve to be able to live in town.”

Affordability is a major deterrent to the many teachers in Greenwich who would like to live in town, said Aaron Hull, a longtime educator in town. Hull, who lives in Norwalk, said he and his wife had periodically contemplated moving their family to Greenwich, which he views as a “phenomenal community,” but couldn’t find anything within their price range.

His daily commute on Interstate 95, while only 14 miles, “can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes,” he said. “That seat time takes its toll.”

September 6, 2022. Tags: , , . Housing. Leave a comment.

North Korean communists can’t figure out how to get elevators or water to the top floors of residential skyscrapers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-8glaZNXFk

https://www.yahoo.com/news/north-korean-penthouses-look-glamorous-233656358.html

Why only the poorest North Koreans live in the country’s high-rise penthouses

By Daniel Anderson

April 15, 2022

North Korea has finished construction of an 80-story residential skyscraper complete with penthouses in the capital of Pyongyang, but only some of the least fortunate in the country reportedly choose to live on the top floors of the country’s high-rise apartments.

Defectors have said that many North Koreans take issue with the higher floors of these apartments due to a lack of working elevators, electrical issues, minimal water supply and poor overall safety and quality, according to Reuters.

“In North Korea, the poor live in penthouses rather than the rich because lifts are often not working properly, and they cannot pump up water due to the low pressure,” Jung Si-woo, a 31-year-old North Korean defector, told Reuters.

Jung gave an example, adding, “A friend who lived on the 28th floor of a 40-story block had never used the elevator because it was not working. Most elevators worked just twice a day, during peak commuting hours from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., and the same timing in the evening.”

North Korean citizens are not given many options because housing is assigned, and the buying and selling of homes is illegal.

According to state media, housing development is an important goal for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and he has promised to build thousands of apartments. On Wednesday, the country completed construction on 10,000 new apartments, taking pride in their completion time and quality.

In Jung’s opinion, however, the efforts are theatrics. “It’s to show how much their construction skills have improved, rather than considering residents’ preferences.”

The editor-in-chief of Daily NK, Lee Sang-yong, a Seoul-based website that reports on North Korea, corroborates Jung’s claims, saying his sources reported that the “apartments for regular people were not ready to live in.”

“Windows had only frames, and water taps, though installed, were not working; but the recently completed luxury homes come complete with furniture and utensils,” Lee explains.

Kim Jong Un recently gifted a two-story luxury apartment to North Korean TV anchor Ri Chun-hee as thanks for her loyalty, saying, “There is nothing to spare for national treasures like Ri Chun-hee, who has led a virtuous life with the revolutionary microphone.”

April 19, 2022. Tags: , , . Communism, Housing. Leave a comment.

How the US made affordable homes illegal

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Flsg_mzG-M

February 15, 2022. Tags: , , . Economics, Housing. Leave a comment.

Shame on the New York Times! Instead of asking “Where are the fathers of these children?” the New York Times blames childhood poverty on lack of government funding. Also, shame on the New York Times for saying “they had little choice.”

Here is a recent article from the New York Times about a bunch of unmarried women and their out-of-wedlock babies.

The word “father” does not appear in the article.

Instead, the New York Times uses the following words and phrases to explain why these women and children are living in poverty:

“have few options”

“waiting for subsidized housing”

“18 people had been inside the four-bedroom public housing unit, triple the number of people who had moved in a decade earlier”

“mothers, sons and daughters”

“they had little choice”

“a growing family forced to crowd ever more tightly into the apartment it already had”

“According to a 2016 assessment of housing needs in the city, Philadelphia is supplying less than 12 percent of the publicly supported housing needed for its low-income households”

“Without enough funding to support a program like that”

“Shakia Miller, who lives in a three-bedroom unit at the West Park Apartments, which are owned and managed by the housing authority, applied for a bigger place when she was pregnant with twin boys. They are now 9 years old, yet the family, which includes Ms. Miller’s three older children, is still living in the same apartment.”

“There were six people on the lease at that time, a number that expanded, by the time of the latest lease, to 14. There were three sisters, Rosalee, Virginia and Quinsha, and a growing number of children”

“There should have been a lot more resources for the family”

“For the families that are in such a situation, there may not be much of a choice at all.”

So that’s what’s in the article.

According to the New York Times, these women had no control over anything, and the reason that these women and their children are living in poverty is because the government is not spending enough money.

The New York Times never asks where the children’s fathers are.

The New York Times never asks why these women had so many out-of-wedlock babies that they could not afford to take care of.

Shame on the New York Times for not asking, “Where are the fathers of these children?”

Shame on the New York Times for blaming their poverty on lack of government funding!

Shame on the New York Times for falsely claiming these these women had no choice and no control over their situation!

I’d like to propose a new policy. Instead of the government spending more money on unmarried women and their out-of-wedlock babies, the government should stop funding them entirely.

Unmarried women who have babies out of wedlock should not be rewarded with public housing and section 8 vouchers.

Whatever you reward, you get more of.

We should stop rewarding unmarried women who have babies out of wedlock.

An unmarried women who has a baby out of wedlock should never be eligible for public housing or section 8 vouchers.

Before the Democrats started their “Great Society” and their “war on poverty” in the 1960s, only 5% of babies in the U.S. were born out of wedlock.

Today, it’s 40%.

This chart shows the increase. The chart is from this link at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nonmarital_Birth_Rates_in_the_United_States,_1940-2014.png

Nonmarital_Birth_Rates_in_the_United_States,_1940-2014

And now I’d like to talk about the origination of the fire that killed those mothers and their children.

First, someone removed the batteries from the home’s smoke detectors.

And second, a very careless and negligent cigarette smoker left their lighter in a place where a five-year-old boy was able to get it and then use it to set the family’s Christmas tree on fire. I don’t blame the five-year-old boy. I do blame the adult smoker.

This incident happened in Philadelphia. And while I don’t know the statistics for Philadelphia, I do know that in New York state, low-income smokers spend 25% of their income on cigarettes.

Choices matter.

Choices result in actions.

Actions result in consequences.

Having babies out of wedlock that you can’t afford is a choice, no matter how many times the New York Times writes that “they had little choice.”

Taking the batteries out of smoke detectors is also a choice that can lead to disastrous results.

Leaving a lighter where a five-year-old can get it is irresponsible and negligent.

Smoking is stupid.

Spending 25% of your income on cigarettes when your own children don’t even have adequate housing is inexcusable.

Childhood poverty would be greatly reduced if people behaved responsibly. Let’s consider two groups of people in the U.S. The first group has a poverty rate of 2%. The second group has a poverty rate of 76%.

The first group consists of people who followed all three of these steps:

1) Finish high school.

2) Get a full-time job.

3) Wait until age 21 and get married before having children.

The second group consists of people who followed zero of those three steps.

Among people who follow all three of these steps, the poverty rate is 2%.

Among people who follow zero of these steps, the poverty rate is 76%.

My source for that information is this article, which refers to this PDF, and the relevant data is on page 15 of the PDF. The study uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Finally, I’m going to end this blog post by posting a video of the song “Love Child” by the Supremes from the 1960s. By today’s standards, this song would be considered extremely conservative, as well as racist and sexist. It’s a great song, with a lesson that needs to be taught more often:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdmGO-GvHyo

February 12, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , . Economics, Housing, Media bias, Parenting, Smoking, Social justice warriors. 3 comments.

Cuban Goes to Home Depot for FIRST TIME – DREAM CAME TRUE!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLsscvpsH8E

January 23, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , . Communism, Economics, Housing, Immigration. 2 comments.

The Washington Post explains how Democrats use zoning laws to ban the construction of affordable housing

https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:d7S9I53GTskJ:https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/democrats-must-figure-out-how-to-address-blue-americas-housing-crisis/2019/06/17/1742bc3a-9115-11e9-b570-6416efdc0803_story.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Democrats must figure out how to address Blue America’s housing crisis

By Charles Lane

June 17, 2019

LOS ANGELES

There’s nothing like people-watching on L.A.’s West Side, where some folks pitch tents in the parks, while others go in and out of $4 million three-bedroom houses — coffee mug in one hand, Maltese in the other — to get you thinking about affordable housing in the United States.

There is much talk of a crisis, based on statistics such as this one, from a 2018 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts: Of the nearly 43 million households who rented their homes in the United States, 7.3 million — 17 percent — spend half or more of their monthly income on rent. Often, their apartments are an hour or two away from where they work.

The situation is worst in booming coastal cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, which means it is mostly a Blue America problem, and that Democrats — both those who run the blue states and those campaigning for president — are under pressure to come up with solutions.

It’s tricky: Democrats are the party of government, but the housing crisis is in large part government-created.

To cut a long story short, blue American cities and counties need new rental housing, but local zoning, building codes, approval processes and other regulations — the whole legal infrastructure that keeps West L.A. neighborhoods neat, green and oh-so-pleasant — hinder construction.

That web of rules has accrued over decades: In 1960, Los Angeles had 2.5 million people and enough zoned real estate to accommodate housing for 10 million. By 2010, population had grown by 60 percent, to 4 million, but authorities had reduced the city’s maximum zoned residential capacity by 57 percent, to 4.3 million.

A study published in February by UCLA researchers found that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s goal of 3.5 million new homes statewide by 2025 cannot be met, because no more than 2.8 million could be built under current zoning laws.

Now consider that the incumbent homeowners who benefit from this arrangement are disproportionately white, upper-income, college-educated social liberals who largely vote Democratic, while the losers are disproportionately working people of color, who also vote Democratic.

A month ago, California’s state Senate shelved a bill to deregulate apartment construction. The sponsor was a Democrat from San Francisco, backed by Newsom. Opponents were progressive groups that said the bill would enrich private developers but not ensure affordability — and Democratic elected officials from such places as Beverly Hills, Palo Alto and West Hollywood.

Among Democratic candidates for president, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has offered the most detailed housing plan and, to her credit, it identifies “the root causes of the problem” as insufficient supply, “and state and local land-use rules that needlessly drive up housing costs.”

She would encourage states and localities to change these rules through a $10 billion grant program that would fund parks, roads or schools in return for land-use reform. It’s like the Obama administration’s “ Race to the Top” education-reform program, but for housing. It also resembles a state-level incentive plan Newsom has already proposed in California.

Then Warren would spend $500 billion over the next decade “to build, preserve and rehab” affordable units on the freed-up land (and elsewhere), paid for by restoring estate taxes repealed by the Republican Congress and President Trump in 2017.

Of course, if Warren really wanted to shake things up, she would fund her plans by eliminating both the mortgage interest deduction, for an estimated savings of $33.9 billion per year, and the exclusion of capital gains on home sales, for another $36.3 billion.

Ending those breaks would raise revenue and reduce huge tax-code subsidies for single-family housing — another “root cause” of America’s distorted residential real estate markets. West Los Angeles, and the rest of America’s suburban upper middle class, wouldn’t like it, though.

Tax changes might even be more efficient, as housing policy reform, than spending a national fund on a shortage that is crippling in some localities but nonexistent in others. Warren would distribute the money through all 50 state governments — guaranteeing that the dollars would not necessarily go where they were most needed.

Warren identifies a real challenge and its real origins. Her proposed solution taxes the ultra-rich — “14,000 of the wealthiest families,” in the words of Warren’s plan — but this populist flourish tends to obscure the much wider role of the suburban upper middle class.

These are the people who would ultimately decide whether local communities accept zoning reform. And recent political events in California suggest that their acceptance would be grudging indeed, even if the federal government sweetened the pot with infrastructure funds per Warren’s plan. Perhaps it’s better to see what that state’s own efforts yield before committing the whole country’s resources.

It is largely in Blue America that the future of the nation’s most sought-after living spaces will be decided, with huge implications for the Democrats, and for the social and economic opportunity the party champions.

The battle will be lost unless and until Blue America’s haves find ways to share more of their neighborhoods with the have-nots.

November 27, 2021. Tags: , . Housing. Leave a comment.

‘Can’t stay anymore’: Residents near new Obama Center fear being pushed out by gentrification

https://www.yahoo.com/news/benefit-were-not-anymore-obama-083016708.html

‘Can’t stay anymore’: Residents near new Obama Center fear being pushed out by gentrification

By Safia Samee Ali

October 19, 2021

CHICAGO — Less than 3 miles from where former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama broke ground last week on their long-awaited presidential center on the South Side of Chicago, Tahiti Hamer lies awake at night thinking about the limited time she and her family have left in the neighborhood where she’s lived her whole life.

Following the announcement of the center in 2015, neighborhoods adjacent to the 19-acre planned site have seen skyrocketing rents and housing prices, and Hamer, 42, a single mother of three, is one of several facing displacement.

Hamer, a teacher at a local YMCA, said she’s tried to buy a home for the last two years, but it’s been out of reach in her neighborhood. She found a house she could afford 12 miles south.

“I do not want to leave. I want to stay, but I’m barely keeping my head above water now,” she said. Hamer’s rent has gone up from $800 to $1,000, and she said her landlord has already told her there’s another $100 hike coming because the area is “coming back up.”

“It’s sad that the place that I’ve lived my whole life I can’t stay in anymore,” she said. “And once I leave, it will be impossible to ever come back. It’s the same story with so many people in this community.”

Despite the Obama Presidential Center being built for the benefit of historically underprivileged communities of color, housing experts say without timely and robust housing protections, it may become a catalyst for displacement, pushing out the residents it intended to help.

The location of the ambitious project was chosen to honor the former first couple’s roots and boasts a library, museum and activity center costing more than $500 million.

Demand has already boomed, with housing costs increasing at a higher rate in areas surrounding the proposed center than citywide since 2016, according to a 2019 study by the University of Illinois Chicago.

Much of the existing community is low-income, with many paying more than they can afford for their monthly housing costs, the study reported, and “eviction rates are some of the highest in the city with South Shore being the highest, averaging 1,800 a year, which is about 9 percent of renters.”

“This very much follows the script of how gentrification works,” said Winifred Curran, a professor of geography and sustainable urban development at DePaul University. “The Obama center is kind of like a signal to developers to get real estate now for cheap, and then the profit potential is huge. That’s what gentrification is, and unless you very specifically do things to keep housing affordable to make property accessible to long-term residents, you’re going to see displacement.”

The battle between residents who live around the site and the city of Chicago has been ongoing for the last six years, but many say they are still waiting for significant aid.

Dixon Romeo, a lifelong South Shore resident and organizer with theObama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, a resident-based group formed in 2016 to help fight displacement, said residents are not against the Obama center but instead are looking for help, so they will be around to enjoy it.

“How can we benefit from it if we’re not there anymore?” he said. “This is the community that sent President Obama to Springfield. This is the community that sent him to the Senate. This is the community that sent him to the White House, and we should be the community that gets to stay for the presidential center.”

After intense pushback from the coalition, the city passed the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance last year, which promises to help one neighborhood, which sits directly across from the site, with $4.5 million in affordable housing programs, a requirement that at least 30 percent of new apartments be made affordable to “very low-income households” and a provision that allows renters a “right of first refusal” if their landlord decides to sell the building, among other things.

But Dixon, 27, said residents still haven’t seen any significant changes with the ordinance and that it falls short by not including South Shore and other surrounding neighborhoods that are also feeling financial impacts from the center. He, along with the coalition, is asking the city to implement protections for other neighborhoods.

In a statement to NBC News, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said “since taking office in 2019, the Lightfoot Administration and the newly reformed Department of Housing (DOH) have been committed to working with Woodlawn and all other communities to develop plans for growth that increase opportunity for all and consider the diverse perspectives of everyone. In just two years, the City worked with community stakeholders in Woodlawn, including a 40-member working group of advocates, residents and community organizers, to address displacement and the need for additional affordable housing so that all residents can benefit from the investment that the Obama Presidential Center will bring to the South Side.”

The office also said “DOH is working with Alderwoman Hairston and other stakeholders on several developments and opportunities,” in South Shore.

While more affordable housing is always a good thing, the first step is to make sure people who already have affordable housing don’t lose it, Curran said.

“A lot of times we’re playing a cat-and-mouse gentrification game. Something happens, causes a big spike in rents, people get displaced, and then all of a sudden the city says, ‘Oh, my God, we should have done something with affordable housing,’” she said.

Time is running out. The longer the city drags its feet in providing affordable housing, the more people will be displaced, while gentrification just makes the land more expensive — which means the affordable housing budget will cover fewer units, she said.

“If you’re going to do these things, you have to do them right away because you lose momentum, and at a certain point, what happens is that all the activists who fought for these things get displaced themselves,“ she said. “So they have no one keeping the city accountable for their promises.”

While rent control would be a strong solution to help renters with low income, Illinois prohibits municipalities from passing rent control ordinances under the Rent Control Preemption Act passed in 1997. What they can do is offer property tax breaks to help landlords who already are providing affordable housing, and other subsidies for utilities and bills, she said.

Stacey Sutton, a professor of urban planning and policy and the University of Illinois Chicago, said the issue around the Obama center is not novel for any city, and it’s the same lower-income Black and brown people that disproportionately bear the burden when development takes place largely because class and race are so intertwined.

A 2020 study by Stanford University showed Black residents have more constraints and fewer options of neighborhoods they can move to compared to their white counterparts and that minority communities disproportionately feel the negative effects of gentrification.

“We think of the neighborhoods that we may visit and enjoy, but there’s a full erasure of the history of a lot of those places. Years later, we’ll look back and we won’t remember who lived there, and that’s the erasure,” Sutton said.

“I think the problem with large-scale development, there’s always some downsides, but you try to mitigate the downside. You try to mitigate the adverse effects. And so there are better ways of doing that, and this was not a better way of doing it right,” she said.

Tahiti Hamer is still holding out hope that she’ll be able to stay in the neighborhood that she feels is a part of her, but she knows time is running thin for her.

“I feel like I’m being forced out,” she said. “How can I not afford a home in my own community where I lived for 42 years? It’s unreal and just so unfair.”

October 19, 2021. Tags: , , , , , . Barack Obama, Housing. 1 comment.

America’s big cities are turning into housing catastrophes. If we want to fix this mess, we should try and copy Tokyo.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/americas-big-cities-turning-housing-120600526.html

America’s big cities are turning into housing catastrophes. If we want to fix this mess, we should try and copy Tokyo.

By Jairaj Devadiga

October 9, 2021

Tokyo

A view of residential houses in Tokyo, Japan.

In major cities around the world, housing is becoming less and less affordable.

Tokyo, Japan, is a notable exception, with prices barely rising since 1995.

The US has restrictive, often absurd regulations, and should instead mirror Tokyo.

Jairaj Devadiga is an economist specializing in public policy and economic history.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

In major cities around the world, housing prices have spiraled out of control.

In California’s Bay Area, the median house price is $1.3 million. In Vancouver, the average household must save for 34 years to make a down payment on a house, and put aside 85% of its pre-tax income for mortgage payments. In Sydney, a decrepit house without any toilet facilities sells for $3.5 million.

In this sea of craziness, Tokyo has been an island of sanity. Its housing prices have barely risen since 1995. This is not due to deflation either.

While the population of Japan as a whole has been shrinking, Tokyo has been growing. Between 1995 and 2019, the population of Tokyo grew by 2.17 million, or just above 90,000 per year on average. To accommodate all these new people, lots of housing had to be built. Over the same time period, there was an average of 153,000 housing starts annually.

A study by the Fraser Institute illustrates what happens when housing supply fails to keep up with demand. Between 2015 and 2019, 120,000 new jobs were created in Vancouver and Toronto. In the same time period, there were only 57,000 housing starts every year. Since demand was growing more than twice as fast as supply, prices skyrocketed. The same story played out in almost every major city. Lots of new jobs being created, lots of people wanting to move, and not enough homes being built for all of them.

There are numerous bad policies which prevent the construction of more housing. Chief among them are restrictive zoning laws. In most cities with expensive housing, vast swathes of residential land are reserved exclusively for single family homes. Until very recently, the worst of the bunch was San Jose, with 94% of the land being off limits for apartment buildings. No wonder it is the least affordable city in America.

Not only does this make housing costlier for middle and low income folks, but also subsidizes mansions for the rich. The land on which a mansion sits would be worth a lot more if an apartment building could be built on it. The developer would make a profit even if they sold each apartment at an affordable price.

However, because that’s not allowed, developers won’t bid for that land, thus driving down its price.

While Tokyo does have low density zones, these do not prohibit multi-family buildings. Thus it is not uncommon to see a three story apartment building right next to a single family home.

Apart from zoning, cities dictate minimum lot sizes and maximum floor area ratios (how much of the plot is covered by the building itself), which further stifle construction. In much of Mumbai, for instance, the floor area ratio was capped at 1.33 until 2018.

This had the disastrous result of pushing poor people into slums, as they could not compete with affluent families for the limited housing. In 1971, 22% of Mumbai’s population lived in slums. By 2010, this had risen to 62%. By contrast, Tokyo allows floor area ratios as high as 13, and even higher with government permission.

Another problem is cities wanting to preserve too many historical sites. For instance, cities often declare old homes or commercial establishments to be historical monuments, which prevents them from being torn down and replaced with apartment buildings.

In some cases, cities prevent development even when the historical monument itself would be untouched. For instance, last year, a historic preservation board in Seattle rejected a proposal for a 200-unit apartment building because it would be taller than nearby historical monuments. While Tokyo has historic buildings, its criteria for preservation are much stricter and thus don’t get in the way of affordable housing.

Another important factor in raising housing prices is over-regulation. A recent report by the National Association of Home Builders estimates that regulations add almost $94,000 to the price of new homes. The vast majority of these regulations are purely aesthetic, such as mandating certain types of landscaping and architectural styles, or banning vinyl sidings.

This is not exclusive to American cities. A study on India’s Ahmedabad shows that unnecessary regulations add 34% to the cost of housing. By contrast, Tokyo has very few common sense regulations; mainly to protect against the frequent earthquakes. As long as developers follow these and the very liberal zoning laws, they are free to build as they please.

At this point, you might wonder why these restrictive rules persist if they are so obviously bad. Why is liberal city-planning the exception, rather than the norm? To answer this, we must examine the policy making process itself, to understand the motivations of all participants.

Consider San Jose, with its 94% single-family zoning. The politicians in San Jose were catering to the wishes of their constituents; the people already living in San Jose. Those voters wanted high prices. To them, their house is an investment, which would lose value if more housing were built in their neighborhood. It would also result in new neighbors bringing in a different culture from what the residents are used to.

People who wanted to move to San Jose, but couldn’t due to high prices, would benefit from more liberal planning. They might live in different parts of California, or even in other states. Obviously they don’t get to vote in San Jose elections, thus local politicians have no incentive to help them.

The same process plays out across every city, resulting in sky-high prices.

At the state or national level, though, the political calculus changes completely. People in a particular city might want to restrict housing development, but everyone else wants more. Thus state and national politicians have an incentive to liberalize.

This is exactly what happened in Japan. It too had local governments choking the housing market, resulting in a massive housing bubble in the 1980s. This prompted the national government to enact a series of reforms to rein in housing prices.

The national government formulates building codes, zoning laws, and other city-planning regulations for the entire country, giving very little leeway to local governments.

Recently, governor Gavin Newsom did something similar in California, by finally abolishing single-family zoning statewide, and also loosening some other restrictions.

To win elections, local politicians must necessarily keep down the supply of new housing. It is up to state and national governments to deny them that power, and quickly. Otherwise, home-ownership will remain a pipe-dream for most people.

October 9, 2021. Tags: , , , , , , . Economics, Housing. Leave a comment.

San Francisco developer builds 160 unit apartment building on 9,000 square foot lot

I just came across this wonderful success story in San Francisco.

At 16:00 in the video below, the developer says:

“This is only a 9,000 square foot lot and yet we have 160 apartments in it. It comes to about 800 units an acre.”

I have no idea how he got permission to build such dense housing. (See here for an explanation of how San Francisco politicians deliberately prevent affordable housing from being built.)

The video also explains how these “micro-apartments” cater specifically to people who do not own cars.

The amenities in the building are quite amazing.

This type of high density apartment building is exactly what the city needs. And they need a huge number of them.

I wasn’t deterred by the video’s 20 minute length. I watched the entire thing, and I found it to be quite enjoyable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LI0tqVmGtI

October 1, 2017. Tags: , , , , , , , . Economics, Housing. 2 comments.