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Unpacking the Idea 'More Housing Equals Lower Prices'

It makes economic sense: increase supply in desirable areas to match demand. These articles look at some of the factors complicating that story in on the west coast.
July 4, 2015, 9am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Brooke Anderson

"Since the 1970s, coastal California, from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, has seen dramatically slower housing growth than the United States as a whole – even as the region's population has boomed." This is due for the most part to long restrictions on new construction. In a piece for City Observatory, Daniel Hertz acknowledges that yes, more housing does curtail rising rents

But Hertz makes the psychological point that "People don't live their lives from 30,000 feet; they live them on the ground, which is why these ideas often seem so counterintuitive. [...] Arguments about supply and demand, though important, aren't necessarily addressing their immediate needs and fears."

A long-term regional balancing act shouldn't excuse kicking people out of their homes. Instead, Hertz writes, "we need to acknowledge the need for both housing growth policies and anti-displacement policies."


In a separate article published by Slate, Henry Grabar ties the Bay Area's astronomical rents to established suburbs, saying those neighborhoods haven't shouldered their fair share of the region's housing burden. Job sprawl ensues: "Of the 1.75 million jobs within 35 miles of downtown San Francisco, only 45 percent are within 10 miles. That's 12 percentage points lower than average for a big U.S. city."

Again, old laws have rendered new development difficult, creating an imbalance. In 2013, "The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission introduced Plan Bay Area—a proposal to funnel the majority of housing and business growth into just a few key areas."

Grabar laments the predicable reaction from some of the plan's opponents, who have been known to cite the infamous Agenda 21 conspiracy theory.

Full Story:
Published on Monday, June 22, 2015 in City Observatory City Commentary
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