(Mark Hogan/Flickr)

The Bay Area’s housing market is white hot, and that’s left low and middle income people struggling to find a place to live within their means. As part of our Priced Out series, examining the high cost of living in the Bay Area, we take a regional look at affordable housing. How can we ensure that the Bay Area remains a place for more than the very rich? We’ll discuss different approaches and innovative ideas for maintaining, and creating new, lower cost housing.

Guests:
Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of SPUR, the San Francisco-based urban planning think tank
Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations
Karen Chapple, associate director, Institute for Urban and Regional Development at the University of California, Berkeley

  • Sigmarlin

    The Bay Area Governments report says that 60% of the population is moderate to low income, and the housing should be built to reflect that. Yet, in 2012, market rate development was 95% meeting its goal while that 60% affordable was only 35% built. Over 8,000 needed units were not being built. It is so disingenuous of SPUR to be talking about trickle down housing theory on million dollar flats.. Build that 60% affordable and then we can talk about your condo dreams. It is completely unsustainable (and not green) to have me and all the other workers at SFMOMA for example) to be commuting in from Richmond. This city cannot run without us moderate to low income earners. We vote, we pay taxes, its time for SPUR to plan for us too.

    • Another Mike

      Affordable housing doesn’t stay that way for long. My currently unaffordable house started its life as a No Money Down returning GI special.

    • best

      What is wrong with Richmond that cannot be cured by an influx of moderate income folks. A BART commute may be more convenient than a Muni commute and healthier than a car. We live in the Bay area not the island of SF.There are some nice areas in the Bay area outside of SF and maybe the rents are lower. Has anyone noticed how many people work and commute to areas outside of SF?

      • julieg

        Rents are lower outside of SF, but not a whole lot lower until you get pretty far away. SF is the most ridiculous as far as how high/fast rents are climbing which puts pressure on the rental markets within at least a 30 mile radius of the city. Rents in those areas are rising quickly too.

  • Skip Conrad

    Kudos for tackling this one. There are methods to reduce the cost of housing, but they would never fly in this country. However, many of these techniques are used in other countries, to the benefit of their citizens. So they are proven methods. But like I said they would never fly in this country.

    First of all, in order to establish a baseline, let’s ask ourselves what determines the price of housing? Answer: supply and demand. Any argument with that?

    Here’s my top 10 list of proven methods to made housing more affordable:

    10. Forbid speculation in residential housing, much like we forbid speculation in human organs. Require that the owner of a residential house, must reside in that house. Investors can buy commercial real estate, but not residential real estate. Mexico has such a policy.

    9. When a landlord has a vacant unit, he is fined for every month that unit is vacant. Thus he has a financial incentive (other than holding out for top dollar) to get a tenant in quickly. England has such a policy.

    8. Reform the method by which building permits are issued. Currently, the fee is collected up front, before any work is done. Can you imagine if you had to pay a contractor, painter, roofer up front for services? You would have no guarantee of receiving good service. The reason why the services of the building dept (DBI) are so lousy is because DBI has no financial incentive to give you good service. Unlike your contractor, painter, roofer, who gets paid after you are satisfied with the work.

    7. Require insurance companies to pay the loss in cash if you choose not to rebuild. We are building on unstable areas like floodplains, tinder box hills, earthquake faults. If a homeowner has a home destroyed to such an event, Sandy, Oakland Hills fire, tornado, hurricane, sinkhole, etc. he has no choice but rebuild – thus we will continue to build in dangerous, unstable, and consequently, unlivable areas.

    6. We don’t need to build more housing. We have plenty of housing. We are the world’s 3rd most populous nation after China and India. it would behoove us to begin thinking about stabilizing our population growth. Having a national population policy is a great idea, whose time has come.

    5. Enforce zoning and occupancy laws. A single family home with 6 vehicles parked out front should raise a red flag.

    4. End sanctuary city policies. This puts unnecessary strain on housing, artificially increasing demand, and raising the housing costs of those who have a legitimate right to reside in the country.

    3. Permit composting toilets. Make them legal. Each time we flush the toilet we pollute 2 gallons of fresh drinking water.

    2. Streamline the housing sale process.

    1. Reject immigration reform, as it is now being crafted, which will increase dramatically the population of this country, and subsequently increase dramatically the demand for housing. Financial benefits predicted by the CBO and by other analyses will only happened after a decade, and this fact is openly stated. In the first ten years after a Schumer-Graham vision of immigration reform is implement, the stability of the American middle class will only decline. The predicted increased GDP, etc. will only happen after a decade of continued misery. (Every other country limits immigration, except us. What do they know that we don’t?)

    • Sam Badger

      Blaming migrants for the housing crisis is outrageous. Their labor keeps prices on everything else low and they have paid for their right to live here with their work.

      • Skip Conrad

        @Badger: Where did you ever get the idea that I am blaming migrants? Are you implying that their labor keeps prices low, so the rich can live here and the middle class can not. That they are virtually undercutting the wages of working people? Please clarify.

        • Sam Badger

          “4. End sanctuary city policies. This puts unnecessary strain on
          housing, artificially increasing demand, and raising the housing costs
          of those who have a legitimate right to reside in the country.

          1. Reject immigration reform, as it is now being crafted, which will
          increase dramatically the population of this country, and subsequently increase dramatically the demand for housing.”

          They aren’t “undercutting” the wages of working people they ARE working people. Also businesses can cross borders freely and ruin employment in Mexico – that’s a major driver of migration. The economics behind immigration are very complex. NAFTA for instance contributed a lot to immigration from Mexico by hurting labor protections and job opportunities.

          • Skip Conrad

            Yes, the migration issues are complex, so there’s no need to resort to accusations of me blaming migrants. I could have just as well added a #11- repeal NAFTA, which in my opinion is unconstitutional having not secured the 2/3rds of the Senate required by All Treaties. I agree that NAFTA is a travesty, on both sides of the border. But using one wrong to justify another wrong doesn’t fly in my book. Just because somebody has ruined employment in Mexico, is not valid as an excuse permit us to allow employment to be ruined here.

            I don’t think anybody can deny that our sanctuary policy attracts certain people to our city, just like the payroll tax, GA, GGP, Haight St, weather, etc. attract certain people to our city, as well. More people has an undeniable impact on demand. One could have his head in the sand like Karen Chapple and say that “supply and demand doesn’t apply here” but I’m not convinced, as most intelligent people would not be convinced either.

            Your comment that “they aren’t ‘undercutting’ the wages of working people they ARE working people.”, indeed proves my point even more dramatically than I had stated, that the death knoll for the American working class has already rung.

    • jefftrent

      ridiculous ideas… how can you disallow ownership in residential housing that is for rent (#10), and then talk about residential landlords with vacant property (#9). totally impossible. the composting toilet idea is also stupid.

      • Skip Conrad

        That’s what they told the Wright Bros.

      • Skip Conrad

        Regard (#10), I am talking about “flipping houses”, for example. This type of speculation increases the cost of housing. So put limits on “flipping. Also, we have SF real estate agents flying to Hong Kong to sell residential houses. Limit foreign purchases of residential real estate, because they are not going to “reside” in them.

    • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

      Skip – Thanks for the creativity and fresh thinking in your points #’s 7—10! I also appreciate #3. Creativity and innovation applied to public policy will heal many ills.

  • julieg

    I moved to SF after my divorce and was paying today’s rent prices. I realized I would never be able to save for retirement if I continued living in SF or anywhere in the Bay Area that I liked. I moved to Pittsburgh, PA earlier this year where housing prices are roughly 75% lower. The issue is complex. Just about everyone I know in the Bay Area could not afford their homes there if they had to buy or rent them at today’s prices. I have one friend who is retired and has tenants renting the upstairs unit in her 2 unit building. Because they have rented it for a long time, their rent is low thanks to rent control. My friend is struggling to get by on a fixed income and can’t raise the rent enough to make ends meet. She loves SF and if her tenants don’t move, she will probably have to sell her home and leave the city to have enough money to live on. If she was able to raise the rent more than allowed by rent control she wouldn’t have to do this.

    • rapetzel

      Thanks for showing the full complexity on both sides.

  • thucy

    NY Times reported on this again today, listing SF as the #1 (in least affordable housing). We’re #1! At… something.

    “San Francisco has the least affordable housing in the nation, with just 14 percent of homes accessible to middle-class buyers, said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia. The median rent is also the highest in the country, at $3,250 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/25/us/backlash-by-the-bay-tech-riches-alter-a-city.html?hp&_r=0

  • thucy

    From today’s NYT on SF’s “least affordable housing in the nation.”

    “Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a retired accountant, is fighting eviction from the rent-controlled apartment where she has lived for almost half a century. If her new landlords have their way, she will have to move in April, shortly after her 98th birthday, because they want to sell the units.”

    An Ellis Act eviction against a 97-year-old woman. Seriously! Thank you, Mayor Ed Lee! There are really no words sufficiently foul to describe the moral “quality” of the mayor.

    Where is Mme. DeFarge when you need her? We’s gettin’ erased out here. I keep thinking about that line in “Manhattan” where Woody Allen is trying to get people at MOMA to rallly against a neo-Nazi march in New Jersey: “Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.”

    • Guest

      The influx of wealth is, in turn, changing the tenor of neighborhoods. Fort Mason, a renovated military post on the bay, has been nicknamed “Frat Mason” for the 20-something “tech bros” — tech company salespeople, marketing employees and start-up founders — who have moved into luxury apartments there and play bocce on the great lawn.

      Nowhere are the changes starker than in the Mission District, once a working-class Hispanic neighborhood, now a destination for the tech elite.

      Evan Williams of Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have bought homes near there.

      Longtime residents of the Mission District complain that high-end apartments, expensive restaurants and exclusive boutiques are crowding out the bodegas, bookstores and Mexican bars. They complain about workers who, like residents of a bedroom community, board company buses every morning and return every evening to drink and dine on Valencia Street.

      And they grumble about less tangible things: an insensitivity in interactions in stores and on the street, or a seeming disregard for neighborhood traditions. The annual Day of the Dead procession, meant to be solemn, has turned into a rowdy affair that many newcomers seem to view as a kind of Mexican Halloween.

      “Some of the people in the stores that I knew, they are good people and nice people, and then I see them get evicted and then the people who move in there are not as nice,” said Rene Yañez, an artist and founder of Galería de la Raza in the 1970s, who started the procession. Mr. Yañez and his partner, who is battling cancer, are being evicted from the apartment they have occupied for decades.

      Evictions are higher in this neighborhood than in any other part of the city.

      “They are not only expelling the homeless and the gangbangers,” said Guillermo Gómez-Peña, a performance artist. “They are also expelling the performance artists, the poets, the muralists, the activists, the working-class families — all these wonderful urban tribes that made this neighborhood a very special neighborhood for decades.”

    • The influx of wealth is, in turn, changing the tenor of neighborhoods. Fort Mason, a renovated military post on the bay, has been nicknamed “Frat Mason” for the 20-something “tech bros” — tech company salespeople, marketing employees and start-up founders — who have moved into luxury apartments there and play bocce on the great lawn.

      Nowhere are the changes starker than in the Mission District, once a working-class Hispanic neighborhood, now a destination for the tech elite.

      Evan Williams of Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have bought homes near there.

      Longtime residents of the Mission District complain that high-end apartments, expensive restaurants and exclusive boutiques are crowding out the bodegas, bookstores and Mexican bars. They complain about workers who, like residents of a bedroom community, board company buses every morning and return every evening to drink and dine on Valencia Street.

      And they grumble about less tangible things: an insensitivity in interactions in stores and on the street, or a seeming disregard for neighborhood traditions. The annual Day of the Dead procession, meant to be solemn, has turned into a rowdy affair that many newcomers seem to view as a kind of Mexican Halloween.

      “Some of the people in the stores that I knew, they are good people and nice people, and then I see them get evicted and then the people who move in there are not as nice,” said Rene Yañez, an artist and founder of Galería de la Raza in the 1970s, who started the procession. Mr. Yañez and his partner, who is battling cancer, are being evicted from the apartment they have occupied for decades.

      Evictions are higher in this neighborhood than in any other part of the city.

      “They are not only expelling the homeless and the gangbangers,” said Guillermo Gómez-Peña, a performance artist. “They are also expelling the performance artists, the poets, the muralists, the activists, the working-class families — all these wonderful urban tribes that made this neighborhood a very special neighborhood for decades.”

      Ouch! There goes the neighborhood.

      • Another Mike

        The Mission used to be full of working-class Irish. How did all those Hispanics displace them?

        • @Mike, not for the same reason the Tech people are driving out the Hispanics unless you want to claim Hispanic immigrants out-priced working class Irish.

          • thucy

            Exactly, Sheldon. Many working-class Irish (and Italians and Greeks in the post-war period) moved out to the suburbs, emptying rentals. Then came the Latinos. Latinos did not displace Irish.
            Similar pattern in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx.

    • best

      Ellis Act evictions like Condo conversions, TICs, owner move ins, corporate rentals, holiday and vacation rentals, empty units, high rents due to lack of housing, etc are a natural and logical result of rent control. As a retired accountant, Mary Elizabeth probably saved and piled up a fortune, but kept her three bedroom flat because she could sublet the extra units and make another fortune.

  • Chomsky_P

    Can Karen Chapple clarify what she means by “supply and demand doesn’t apply here”? Does she mean that if demand for housing increases, prices don’t increase? Does she mean that as prices increase, homeowners don’t have incentive to sublet part of their home and add to the general supply of housing?

  • Ben Rawner

    SF has always been growing and these issues have only been exacerbated by the Ellis act. I am originally from NY, but have lives in the bay for the last 13 years. SF has become more and more like Manhattan. We could try to put our fingers in the braking damn but fundamentally the flood is here. Places like Oakland and Foster city have done everything they can. Why not focus efforts on creating a better transit agency that doesn’t cost an arm and leg. Unless the Ellis Act is struck down, this conversation is moot and will become more so as people buy these converted condos.

    • Another Mike

      The Ellis Act is the only way landlords have to exit the business.

      Wives can ditch their husbands, parents can disown their children, your boss can fire you. But if you’re a tenant in SF, your landlord is stuck with you until you die.

      • thucy

        “But if you’re a tenant in SF, your landlord is stuck with you until you die.”

        That’s clearly not true given the three-fold (?) increase in Ellis Act evictions.

        • Another Mike

          A landlord who has exited the business is no longer a landlord.

        • aacole

          They can always sell. Most bought with knowledge of rent control in the first place … And got the units for a song due to that fact.

          A rent controlled apartment is simply an investment equivalent to a low-interest bond. A Very safe, steady income stream — with likely low to no hassles. After all what tenant wants to risk eviction for cause ( such as not paying rent)?

      • Jose Cruz

        most of us are stuck with landlords until we die. Lucky us.

        • Another Mike

          The same landlord, or can you divorce your current landlord and get a new one?

  • Sam Badger

    SF and other cities in the bay need more relatively high density but quality public housing. The lack of public housing forces working class people to commute and also to find housing that they can barely afford. By driving up prices it is helping cause gentrification as well as pressure among homeowners to scrap rent control rules, so it has bad social and economic effects for poorer and middle class people. Rent control is good but it can only go so far, since it does not apply to new tenants or increase the supply. The problem is that cities don’t want to directly act to increase the supply.

  • erictremont

    Here are the facts about rent control in SF: among other unintended consequences, it creates large apartment search costs for people with modest financial resources, it creates large windfall gains for many highly paid professionals who could afford to pay market rate rents, it encourages landlords to discriminate against people with children, pets, or poor credit ratings, and it encourages investors to take units off the market and sell them to home buyers. Yet Karen Chapple would have us believe that it is sound public policy. This is a fantasy.

  • Chomsky_P

    Can someone clarify why means testing isn’t adjusted downward to account for the fact that there aren’t enough “affordable” units? I qualify for affordable housing and yet I am not one of the most needy – why not lower the income requirements to qualify for affordable housing so that those truly in need get it?

  • Sam Badger

    SF needs more public, affordable and high density housing managed by the
    people and kept affordable through municipal policies. Public housing should not be made a ghetto for the poor, but should be made livable and should be spread throughout the community, and it should be something that students, workers and others can apply to live in. The problem is that city governments are governed by a naive pro-market ideology that excludes the possibility of public participation in providing most services out of an irrational fear of “inefficiency”. That is despite the fact that the lack of public housing is obviously not efficient at all for poor and working class people.

    • Another Mike

      This is the best idea I have seen. Public housing serves people of all income groups in countries like Singapore. The burden of supplying affordable housing is spread over the entire population, not just long term landlords. I would caution not to link rents to income to the extent that middle class tenants feel penalized and move out.

    • best

      Right On! Free housing for everyone, and free food and free transportation and free movies. You must be running for Supervisor.

  • Matthew Mitchell

    As a liberal it’s been hard for me coming to this view, but I really think conservatives like Joel Kotkin have a point. CEQA and other regulations drastically limit the supply of housing in California, and lack of supply drives up prices. Shouldn’t we be talking more honestly about this?

    • mossy buddha

      CEQA may delay projects a bit but its impact on supply is arguable IMO, especially when it comes to infill – the stuff we’re building in SF.

  • best

    How much affordable housing have your panelist built ? How much do
    they own? Do they live in nice rent control buildings? They have all
    the old ideas as to how they can force others to subsidize them and
    their constituents. We have 40 years of failed price control that has
    benefited the selfish few.

  • k.love

    The last phone-in said outlying communities should build affordable housing. so…if i work in a city i should be pushed out to another community just to afford housing? that sounds ridiculous and sounds like another wealthy San Franciscan pushing out lower income individuals akin to public employees

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    To boost available affordable housing across the board, “step out of the box;” expand the picture.

    Tie the minimum wage to the cost of living — the actual cost of maintaining shelter and feeding oneself and family. If the cost of housing goes up across the spectrum of society, so will the wages to the poorest.

    It seems to me this one innovation will have the effect of quickly and ongoingly stabilizing the whole scene of unfairly exaggerated profit-taking in real estate, which contributes so much to the polarization between rich and poor and presses down their quality of life as it lifts the speculators and current owners.

    Limited rent controls and subsidies for the lucky few, good as they are as partial “fixes,” are just that.

  • Doug

    Why don’t we explore transit like etranz that can go into existing neighborhoods???

  • i_witness

    If density is to be encouraged, then the tax structure should incentivize density. Houses in dense developments use less gas, less stress on streets,need less public services per household or per capita. This should be for both existing and new development. But under Prop 13, such strategies are impossible.
    Also, the loss of redevelopment funds does not help any.

    • Another Mike

      Crime goes up as density does. Stress goes up as people hunt for parking. You might be able to spread the cost of streetlights, but that’s about it.

      • thucy

        Crime does not necessarily “go up” as density does. Density in NY has increased as the crime rate has decreased.

        • Another Mike

          How is the housing density on Staten Island these days?

          “Staten Island’s low crime rates”

          “Staten Island continues to be the safest borough, with the
          city’s two safest neighborhoods per capita, according to DNA Info. Total crime is down 78% since 1990 but has risen in several categories since 2001.”

  • campfiregirl

    A community by definition is mixed income and mixed use. We should be focusing on creating communities throughout the region; not just more affordable housing in San Francisco but also attractive housing and neighborhoods in the South Bay near jobs.

    • Another Mike

      SF has the restaurants, clubs, and most of all, the young women. That sort of infrastructure will not be built in the San Jose area any time soon.

      • thucy

        “SF has the restaurants, clubs, and most of all, the young women.”

        Ah, the sour smell of old men foraging for prey. I think we can all disregard future “Another Mike” comments based on this winner.

        • Another Mike

          Huh? How do you get that?

          The South Bay is full of single family homes, churches, parks, etc. Things that appeal to older, settled, married people. It is not full of restaurants, bars, clubs, and young women — things that appeal to younger, restless, single people.

          One area is better if you want to stroll to the Giants game, while the other is better if you want to stroll to the Little League game. If you’re a 25 year old techie, where would you want to live?

  • EWF

    My husband and I are both professionals who work for the Federal Government in health care. Anywhere else, we’d be considered well paid. We have one easy, smart school age kid. We cannot afford rent here. We’re working on leaving the entire Bay Area. It’s painful as we’re multi-generation Californians.

    We are not dependent on high-tech, and don’t partake of their pay structure.

    My new suggestion is that everyone of our sort leave en masse, along with everyone in lower-paid types of work. It’s not worth it to drown here, financially, and I think the wealthy have not considered how unworkable their lives would be if they only had each other.

    I think we should look at creating an agency to assist with this mass relocation of the working and middle classes. I think the wealthy should start begging us to stay. They haven’t realized it’s in their best interest.

    • julieg

      “everyone of our sort leave en masse” I think it’s happening. I have other friends who have moved out of the area recently due to the cost of housing. The problem is that there are plenty of wealthier people to take our places.

      Check out Pittsburgh, PA. Its economy is “Eds & Meds”, education and medicine. Salaries are roughly 20% lower here, but housing is about 75% lower. I bought a huge old house with gorgeous stained glass windows, a beautiful oak paneled staircase, and tons of period charm in a friendly neighborhood for well under $200k. A similar home in SF would be at least $1.5 million. It’s a pretty city with three rivers, a vibrant art and theater community, major universities, and a decent economy. I’m a native San Franciscan who, until my move to Pittsburgh, had lived my entire life in the Bay Area.

      • aacole

        This trend is not new. It was happening 10 years ago among my friends as well. My guess it has been going on ad infinitum. People move here to “make their fortune”, and then years later, they move to other places to “settle down” where the value – in cost for what they get, in terms of lifestyle – is better.

        When they leave, more room is created for new immigrants to try to make their fortune, and the cycle repeats itself.

        My guess is that the life experience they got from living here, invariably would not be traded for anything!

        • julieg

          I’m a native San Franciscan and, yes SF has always been expensive, but this is the craziest I’ve seen and I’m in my mid-50s. It makes me sad that working class and middle class families really can’t afford to live in the city anymore unless they’ve been in place for a while (rent controlled building, mortgage from years ago).

  • Charles Ivan King

    Housing within Transportation is a trend the Bay Area needs to embrace in this electric park and charge your car for a short commute age…Increased cost for housing generates increased commutes for jobs…Making both one in the same will generate a scaled economy toward a greater quality of life.

  • Another Mike

    So where were the representatives from the supply side? You know, developers, builders, landlords, etc. The only allusion to property owners that I heard was the assertion that SF must continue to have half its housing stock under rent control. Nothing about how to make it feasible, or why property owners would go for it.

  • Mark M

    Does anyone know when the full audio replay will be on ?

  • Chuck

    Your program on affordable housing was horribly biased and one sided as it
    always is. When will you ever present the other side? Rent control in SF
    has failed to provide affordable housing except for the undeserving but
    privileged few who got here first. If it had been imposed on post ’79
    apartments, none would have been built. It has forced owners of rent
    control buildings to resort to condos, TICs, empty units, evictions,
    corporate and vacation rentals, etc. Tenants are in the business of
    subletting their units in whole or in part and keep their units for
    weekend visits from the suburbs and beyond. Soviet era thinking and
    planning has not worked.

    Many small–under 12 units– buildings are owned by and often inhabited by
    people of moderate means. They struggled, sacrificed, and labored to
    save, invest and provide housing in return for a relatively moderate or
    negative return but in the hope of improving their lives. They scrubbed
    toilets, cleaned and painted apartments, and made improvements to
    upgrade their buildings for years. They gave up movies, restaurants, new
    cars, vacations and leisure activities. They have endured negative cash
    flows, variable market rents and new laws that forced them to
    undertake expensive improvements and remedies for what were deemed the
    public good. Many are immigrants seeking a better life for themselves
    and their children. They did not want to be a burden to society. They
    did not seek or get government subsidies They took responsibility for
    their own lives. They provided decent housing for many San Franciscans.

    The housing providers have been vilified and demonized as greedy landlords
    by those who seek and enjoy government imposed housing subsidies and
    largess. The government run by political opportunists
    took away their property rights and gave it to their constituents
    without any compensation.The tenant activists do not provide tax revenue
    to build affordable housing or provide any housing. With one sided
    laws, regulations and a pro-tenant bureaucracy, they have preserved
    affordable housing for themselves but driven out the less privileged,
    the poor, and the children.

    Most important, rent control has failed to provide or improve the
    housing stock. Rent control was of course sold as temporary and limited
    legislation that was to remedy a perceived injustice to the poor and the
    elderly ​The benefits of rent control do not flow to the poor, the
    single moms, the children, or the needy. They primarily benefit
    well-to-do middle class who had the unmerited good fortune to get here
    first.

    I would hope that KQED could try to be a little more
    progressive and recognize that these Soviet era ideas are dated. While
    these old ideas are interesting from an historical perspective, they are
    not helpful and certainly not enlightening. You began to touch briefly
    on some valid points. Think regionally since SF is not an
    island—Oakland, Antioch and Richmond are not Purgatory. . Think of the
    interrelated causes and solutions such as mass transit as well as auto
    transit—a BART ride might be faster and more convenient than MUNI. The
    savings from public transit and living outside of SF might be in the
    best interests of lots of people. It certainly is more feasible than
    the solutions proposed by your guests.

  • Damian

    I didn’t really hear anything this morning from people actually in housing development or representing landlords in the city. Rent control should be phased out. It provides disincentives to landlords for one and skews the market, thereby having the unintended consequence of driving up prices. This is economics 101. Also why should housing be treated differently from any other commodity? If I went to a restuarant or any business and asked them to sell me their goods at below market rate, they would show me the door. The city has also shown that its priorities lie not in building affordable housing, but building boondoggles like the “subway to nowhere”, Rose Pak and Ed Lee’s stillborn monster. The money it is sucking up could have been used to build hundreds of subsidized units.

  • JimmyOo

    Only heard part of show while driving, but seems as though Dave Iverson did a great job putting this show together. Thanks, Dave 🙂

  • Jame

    We need “affordable” housing. Housing that people with normal incomes can afford. Look at the comments below, well paid professionals with $150k+ household incomes can’t afford to live close to work in an area with a decent school district. That is ridiculous!

    We need housing across all tiers, with a special focus on housing for the middle income people in the region. Especially middle income family housing. We also do not bother to create family-sized housing in denser areas, and those families have to move to the outskirts to find a 3 bedroom place, even if they would prefer to live in a denser, transit oriented neighborhood.

  • aacole

    A couple of points.

    1) subsidized housing is fundamentally unfair. It is unfair to everyone except those that receive the benefit. To whom?

    a) The people who qualify for the subsidy, when there are no units available.
    b) the people who earn too much to qualify for the subsidy, yet not enough to afford a similar unit in the same neighborhood.
    c) to the community as a whole who pays taxes for the subsides, if/when they believe that it is solving the unfairness issue of housing. If they don’t then they (may) feel the subsidy itself is unfair, because either they aren’t getting it, or the people getting it are not the ones who should get it.
    d) the developers and/or landowners who are forced to give their developed value in the form of improvement (ie, the buildings/infrastructure) to certain people ( and not all people) for little or no consideration.
    e) what happens when a subsidized resident’s means (income) changes so that he/she no longer qualifies for the subsidy? Isn’t it unfair to let them stay? What if they are forced to move yet cannot afford to rent a similar unit in their neighborhood? Some might say this is unfair because of the forced displacement of the resident. Others might say this is only fair, given the previous subsidy.

    2) Rent control is also unfair, for analogous reasons to the ones presented above, and do not prevent the rise in the cost of housing, but simply redistribute it. Those who never move and don’t die or lose their job/income get the maximum benefit, at the expense of those who can afford to move in and compete for the shrunken supply of rental housing.

    It creates a 2 tiered rental market where landlords are dis incentivized to do any more than the absolute minimum to refresh a unit regardless of the starting rent, and tenants are less likely to turn down lower quality remodeled units because the lack of supply. Mobility and development of human capital is reduced when to give up your cheap housing is such a negative financial decision for the tenant.

    When the real estate market does go into a crash (eg, post-Internet bubble, in ’02-3), landlords kept 100s if not 1000s of SF units off the market rather than renting them at what the available tenants were willing to pay during that time to get them all rented…. Why? Because then the tenants would be locked in artificially low rents …. And they were right to wait because within 12-18 months the demand supply equation worked its way out.

    I have very close friends who benefit from this system, and it’s hard to argue with those drinking the Kool aid, however, as a former resident who moved away in 2004 only to return to the area in ’11, I am completely priced out of the SF rental market.

    Santa Monica got rid of their rent control in late 1990s (according to WSJ, if my memory serves me, correctly, and according to that article, not only did asking rents drop from $1800s to the $1200s, but also, most landlords were forced to do extensive remodeling because the dumps they had on the market, nobody wanted. Yes, many lost their under-market units (average rents in the $800s), but the quality, quantity, price and service to the incoming tenants was improved immensely. I thought it was a very illustrative case study.

    3) The only solution to the high cost of housing: build housing. Lots of it. In and around the transit corridors in San Francisco, in Oakland, the peninsula, the South Bay. NIMBY communities should be taxed extra, and not given any transportation or redevelopment dollars until they agree to additional density. Keep building until prices come into balance with incomes.

    No subsidy should be given unless it is given to anybody who can’t afford to live where he/she wants to live. Period.

    What will happen is the newest, highest quality housing will go to those with the most excess capital, freeing up the “lower class” luxury housing they moved out of. Others will move up to the newly freed up luxury housing, freeing up more housing. Additional housing being built in sufficient quantity, with good to excellent design sensibilities, will continually drive down the cost for everyone, rich and poor.

    Tax carbon, and stop zoning housing with nutty commute times from the city centers, and people will gravitate to the high density centers.

    • Another Mike

      You want techies to have to bus their own tables whenever they go out to eat? Or raise the minimum wage to $50 an hour?

      SF needs workers at every income level. There is no magic land of cheapness they can live in prefatory to a three hour commute.

      • aacole

        Neither. I am advocating building medium to high density high quality housing within an hour’s commute from the city, and keep building until demand is saturated and prices come down to affordability.

        • Another Mike

          Fairfield/Vacaville? Marin City?

          • aacole

            Along transportation corridors such as downtown oakland to Berkeley and south to Fremont. In addition, along caltrain corridor down to San Jose. Within one hour transit ride to SF for SF workers. Within one hour transit ride to San Jose/ Mountain View for those who find themselves working down in Silicon Valley. Keep building until supply meets demand. And strengthened transit infrastructure is an important policy corollary.

            All I am saying is that if we want lower cost housing that is fairly distributed, we have to build additional housing stock until supply meet demand. Nothing else will work. If the housing is to be desirable, in my opinion, it has be infill/higher density development that is within one hour transit of major employment hubs.

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