October 24, 2015

AFFORDABLE LIVING, BAY AREA STYLE: Let’s travel up Route 101 in the Bay Area and explore how Jerry Brown’s economy is working out for young Californians looking to get ahead:

● “Meet Brandon, the young Google employee who lives in a $10,000 moving van parked in a Google parking lot.”

● Meet Heather, who “created Containertopia, a village of 160-square-foot shipping containers” in Oakland.

● Want another 50 square feet of space? In neighboring San Francisco, it’ll cost you: “In these rather insane days for San Francisco’s rental market, anything may pass as a studio. A glorified closet, if someone is willing to pay, may stand in. And unfortunately, even something as small as 210 square feet rents for $1890 a month.”

So what explains crazy Bay Area housing prices? Late last month Thomas Sowell explored “The ‘Affordable Housing’ Fraud,” noting that “Housing prices in San Francisco, and in many other communities for miles around, were once no higher than in the rest of the United States.” What happened in the last 30 years or so?

[L]ocal government laws and policies severely restricted, or banned outright, the building of anything on vast areas of land. This is called preserving “open space,” and “open space” has become almost a cult obsession among self-righteous environmental activists, many of whom are sufficiently affluent that they don’t have to worry about housing prices.

Some others have bought the argument that there is just very little land left in coastal California, on which to build homes. But anyone who drives down Highway 280 for thirty miles or so from San Francisco to Palo Alto, will see mile after mile of vast areas of land with not a building or a house in sight.

How “complex” is it to figure out that letting people build homes in some of that vast expanse of “open space” would keep housing from becoming “unaffordable”?

Was it just a big coincidence that housing prices in coastal California began skyrocketing in the 1970s, when building bans spread like wildfire under the banner of “open space,” “saving farmland,” or whatever other slogans would impress the gullible?

When more than half the land in San Mateo County is legally off-limits to building, how surprised should we be that housing prices in the city of San Mateo are now so high that politically appointed task forces have to be formed to solve the “complex” question of how things got to be the way they are and what to do about it?

However simple the answer, it will not be easy to go against the organized, self-righteous activists for whom “open space” is a sacred cause, automatically overriding the interests of everybody else.

In the meantime, think of it as implementing the Blue Zone Taxes, piecemeal style. Gaia and Sacramento demand their cut!

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