Thursday, April 12, 2018

The myth of under-producing housing in San Francisco

48 Hills

by Tim Redmond
April 10, 2018

In an interview with Phil Matier on CBS April 1, State Sen. Scott Wiener repeated a line I’ve heard from him, and from many others in politics and the news media, over and over: “There’s a reason we don’t build much housing,” he said, “and it’s been that way for 50 years.”

This is one of the central pieces of the housing market mythology that defines the debate over SB 827 and the larger question of development policy in the city, the region, and the state.

And when you look at the actual facts, it doesn’t seem to hold up...

...We haven’t had 50 years of underproduction; in fact, the population of the city fell from 1950 to 1980. Much of that may have been suburban flight (mixed with the displacement of urban renewal), and neither of those factors were anything to be cheered. But the city didn’t “underbuild” because of Nimbys or CEQA or anything else.

Census figures should the population of SF peaked in 1950 at 775,000. It fell to 740,000, then 715,000, then 678,000 in the next three decades. It wasn’t until 2000 that the city was back to its 1950-level population.

So it’s not “decades of underbuilding” that we’re facing. It’s a decade or two of extreme, unlimited growth in the tech industry driving tens of thousands of workers, who moved here from somewhere else to take jobs, competing for existing housing.

It would have been almost impossible to build housing fast enough to keep up with that demand. That’s why, in the 1980s and 1990s, the people who are getting blamed for the current housing crisis were demanding that the city limit office growth and link it to new housing construction.

The CEQA battles of the 1980s and 1990s weren’t over housing; they were over office buildings, which created a demand for housing that the market wasn’t going to meet, because back then there was a higher return for developers in office construction than in housing construction.

We can argue over whether SB 827 will solve the current crisis. But as Wiener is fond of saying, everyone has the right to their own opinion, but they don’t have the right to their own facts.

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The ship is sinking, the rats are scrambling

...Let us sum up, shall we? We have a deeply corrupt and incompetent president, who’s never been entirely on the rails, sensing quite accurately that he’s very close to being run to ground by a prosecutor he can’t bully or bribe out of his way. And as the ship continues to list, the traffic down the ratlines is getting awfully heavy...

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Krugman has always been good on Paul Ryan, the so-called policy wonk. From November, 2017:

It is amazing to watch this chaotic horror show play out at the highest levels of a great nation’s government. But this is what you have to expect when you hand the reins of power to a con man, whose whole career has been based on convincing naive marks that he’s a brilliant deal maker, but turns out to have no idea how to actually govern.

Oh, wait — did you think I was talking about Donald Trump? I’m talking about Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, an obvious phony who nonetheless convinced the rubes — that is, much of the news media and the political establishment — that he was a brilliant fiscal expert. What we’re witnessing now is the end of the charade.

Thursday, House Republicans unveiled a tax “reform” bill after the same careful deliberation they exercised when unveiling their attempts to repeal Obamacare. With years to prepare, they waited until the last minute to throw something together, without hearings or serious analysis.

Budget wonks are frantically going through the legislative language, trying to figure out what it would do, but they can take comfort in the fact that the bill’s authors are almost equally in the dark.

OK, some things are clear: The bill would give huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, while opening vast new opportunities for tax avoidance. Think of the big tax cuts as having been custom-designed to benefit the Trump family...

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