Renters assistance programs in Humboldt? Build more housing, assholes!

As the drama up in Arcata surrounding a potential rent-fixing ordinance for mobile home parks, it’s easy to see the issue as a black and white fight between two interest groups.

On one hand, you’ve got the beleaguered, impoverished and “captive” mobile home owners, championed by Hilary Mosher and the Humboldt Mobilehome Owners Coalition. On the other side, you’ve got those asshole park owners and their greedy protector corporation, the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association. But this isn’t really about these two factions being pitted against each other for the gain of either small group. This should be about finding solutions that benefit the entirety of Humboldt.

The City of Arcata has decided to spend $35,000 on a study looking into the possibility of developing a strategy to balance the needs of mobile park residents and owners. And more power to ’em, we guess.

But THC really wishes that Arcata – and every single government body in Humboldt – had paid attention to this report released by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (the “California Legislature’s Non-Partisan Fiscal and Policy Advisor”) regarding the best ways to make affordable housing available to the masses. We highly encourage you, THC fans and housing enthusiasts, to read the report in full for yourselves.

Essentially, LAO – and the State of California – encourage local municipalities to abandon their focus on renters-assistance programs (i.e. rent-controls) in order to focus more on increasing the over-all housing stock in California across the board. The idea is that building high-end housing causes a shift in which families move into nicer homes, thus freeing up lower-level housing for the folks who can’t afford as much as they.

We hate to use the words “trickle-down housing,” because we know how the notion of trickle-down can really set some people off, but the phrase does nicely sum up the idea behind increasing higher-level housing.

So why do LAO and the State of CA feel this way? According to the report: The current response to the state’s housing crisis often has centered on how to improve affordable housing programs. The enormity of California’s housing challenges, however, suggests that policy makers look for solutions beyond these programs. While affordable housing programs are vitally important to the households they assist, these programs help only a small fraction of the Californians that are struggling to cope with the state’s high housing costs. The majority oflow–income households receive little or no assistance and spend more than half of their income on housing. Practically speaking, expanding affordable housing programs to serve these households would be extremely challenging and prohibitively expensive.”

And why do they think that building higher-end homes might provide the answer? “While the role of affordable housing programs in helping California’s most disadvantaged residents remains important, we suggest policy makers primarily focus on expanding efforts to encourage private housing development. Doing so will require policy makers to revisit long–standing state policies on local governance and environmental protection, as well as local planning and land use regimes. The changes needed to bring about significant increases in housing construction undoubtedly will be difficult and will take many years to come to fruition. Policy makers should nonetheless consider these efforts worthwhile. In time, such an approach offers the greatest potential benefits to the most Californians.”

Here’s a summary of the difficulties presented by pursuing more renters-assistance programs, in absolutely no order whatsoever (you’ll have to read the report for deeper explanations):

  • Expanding Assistance Programs Would Be Very Expensive                                 
  • Affordable Housing Construction Requires Large Public Subsidies                                                                     
  • Expanding Housing Vouchers Also Would Be
  • Expensive Housing Shortage Has Downsides Not Addressed by Existing Housing Programs                                                                     
  • Scarcity of Housing Undermines Housing Vouchers      
  • Housing Costs for Households Not Receiving Assistance Could Rise
  • Housing Shortage Also Creates Problems for Rent Control Policies
  • Local Resistance and Environmental Protection Policies Constrain Housing Development

And here’s how more private development can help, according to the report:

  • Lack of Supply Drives High Housing Costs
  • Building New Housing Indirectly Adds to the Supply of Housing at the Lower End of the Market.
  • New Housing Construction Eases Competition Between Middle– and Low–Income Households
  • More Supply Places Downward Pressure on Prices and Rents
  • More Private Development Associated With Less Displacement

Meanwhile, back in Humboldt: with such an obvious lack of affordable housing, does it make sense to pursue half-baked solutions that benefit a small number of people, rather than going after solutions that benefit everyone? THC hopes the City of Arcata will ask that question as it looks into ways to improve the housing stock.

According to Mosher, she and her fellow rent-control advocates have only about a third of the signatures they need to put a county-wide rent-control measure on the November ballot, which would suggest that there’s not a ton of support locally. Admittedly, the ordinance proposed by Mosher’s group is highly self-interested, and applies to a very small subset of housing-challenged folks in Humboldt.

But a strategy that encourages building starts, increases the housing stock, and helps create affordable housing opportunities? That sounds like something that everyone can get behind.

So why is it that no one has spoken up about pursuing the possibility of encouraging growth in the housing market, rather than pursuing a rent-control ordinance? It’s plain to see from a quick viewing of real-estate listings that there’s simply not enough inventory to go around. Bidding wars on sub-par homes drive prices way beyond what they should be – and that falls most heavily onto the shoulders of the low-income households.

THC proposes this: instead of putting limitations on the existing housing market, why doesn’t all of Humboldt focus on making it easier to build new housing of all types to help achieve the results described in the LAO report?

The scary part of such a proposition is, of course, the specter of relaxed regulations that get environmental advocates all worked up in a dither. (THC would note that since the prevailing environmental groups in Humboldt have seen fit to allow rampant environmental degradation due to marijuana cultivation and are nowhere to be seen when it comes to environmental damage caused to the bay by the homeless population, than they can shut the f*** up on this issue, too.)

At the end of the day our local governments need to quit chasing after half-measures when it comes to addressing the housing shortage. Rent-control for disadvantaged folks sounds nice, and might make the decision-makers feel like they’re doing something. But rent-control is not the answer. Finding ways to encourage private housing construction directly benefits the economy and the people who are having a hard time finding a place to live. And who could argue against that?

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19 Responses to Renters assistance programs in Humboldt? Build more housing, assholes!

  1. Mac Towner says:

    This report is a really interesting read. Too bad our Stupidvisors can only comprehend at a 2nd grade level. Whoda thunk building more houses might create er um…. more houses. They should be embarrassed that even the politicians in Sacramento are starting to realize this most basic of concepts while locally we add layer upon layer of new regulation. I’m not sure where the term Stupidvisors came from but boy does is fit. Anybody want to bet that a new round of taxes a la Measure Z redoux is just around the corner?


    • Arcatan says:

      It is truly amazing how otherwise intelligent people lose all touch with the very simplest of concepts once elected to office.


      • William B says:

        I think they were totally stupid to start with. Any idiot can tell that you get fewer houses when the Planning Department won’t issue a permit because of over-regulation. You also get lots of unpermitted houses and homeless camps…… Welcome to Humboldt folks.


  2. Azalea Mom says:

    My niece has been trying to buy a house locally for close to a year. She has a decent job with the county and would like to live near me in McKinleyville so I can help out with her kids. There is simply nothing affordable for a first time buyer. As rents have risen fewer so have prices and fewer homes come on the market. I copied the final paragraph of the report because it really struck home to me. I’ve talked to several builders about this problem and every single one said the same thing; Our local bureaucracy in planning and building along with a new environmental regulation every other day has destroyed their ability to build. It’s simply not worth it. I haven’t paid much attention to the general plan but it supposedly adds hundreds of new regulations. I don’t understand why we are adding regulations to a housing industry that doesn’t exist? I hope our Supervisors read the report where is says we should be reducing “long–standing state policies on local governance and environmental protection, as well as local planning and land use regimes”, not increasing them. Come on officials please help us keep our kids in Humboldt not drive them somewhere else!

    “In our view, encouraging more private housing development can provide some relief to low–income households that are unable to secure assistance. While the role of affordable housing programs in helping California’s most disadvantaged residents remains important, we suggest policy makers primarily focus on expanding efforts to encourage private housing development. Doing so will require policy makers to revisit long–standing state policies on local governance and environmental protection, as well as local planning and land use regimes. The changes needed to bring about significant increases in housing construction undoubtedly will be difficult and will take many years to come to fruition. Policy makers should nonetheless consider these efforts worthwhile. In time, such an approach offers the greatest potential benefits to the most Californians.”


    • Arcatan says:

      Less regulation = more housing. Go figure!

      Of course this only matters in a community that needs or wants housing.


    • Sammy says:

      The problem is only partially the policy makers; if there were not a HUGE no growth movement and environmental movement that both lobby (and you know HOW they ‘lobby’) the Supervisors to protect the snails our kids could live and work here —- but no, they had to kill the timber industry, and the fishing industry and tell us how they want us to live — according to the socialist utopian agenda.


  3. Esther says:

    This post could have come straight from the mouth of Julie Williams (Northern California Association of Home Builders) Sorry THC, love you guys but hate Ms. Williams. She might be a bigger —- than Marian Brady. They’re both total asshats.


    • Welcome Esther! We too worry when Ms. Williams agrees with the Legislative Analysts Office in Sacramento. It’s kinda of like when Lovelace and Bohn agree on something. We worry but it probably means the answer is so totally obvious that anyone can see it. What we really won’t believe is that our elected officials will actually do something about such an obvious problem and it’s equally obvious solution.


    • Sammy says:

      Don’t like her because she’s correct, huh?


  4. William says:

    I think someone here did not see this article:
    From less than three weeks ago.


    • Howdy William, Welcome! You’ve made an excellent point. Arcata actually has a pretty good record of allowing and, dare we say, encouraging development. In this case it’s overwhelmingly new student housing which we applaud. The County on the other hand has a totally deplorable record of allowing anything other than unregulated marijuana cultivation. Feels pretty weird huh? Lefty Arcata is allowing more units in a year then the County with it’s supposedly pro-developer board has in decades. Is it the Twilight Zone revisited or are we just drinking way too much Mike’s Hard Cider? Maybe our Supes are just sampling too much So Hum product to actually accomplish anything besides raising taxes to support their DHHS habit?


  5. Arthur says:

    I’m new to this site but thanks for providing an interesting forum. I know it’s off topic but I’m curious if anyone is worried about the proliferation of hash labs that are about to be approved all over the county? It’s my understanding that there are dozen’s of huge operations coming to a property near you. A few of us are interested in attempting to slow the growth of this “explosive” industry. We understand that the growers are here to stay but adding dangerous chemicals to the mix needs to be approached very cautiously. Lets not allow too many of these operations before we understand the long term implications.


    • So Hummer says:

      Excellent point! It’s bad enough that the county is allowing mega grows all over the hills. We just don’t need dozens of oil productions lining all our streets! I will be contacting HUMMAP to see if they would consider another lawsuit to limit labs. We should be limiting cannabis to small sustainable grows and labs to a few who only use eco-responsible techniques.


  6. John Chiv says:

    THC, the summary from LAO said, “We also suggested that the key remedy to California’s housing challenges is a substantial increase in private home building in the state’s coastal urban communities. ”

    It did not say rural communities.

    While I agree building more housing of all types is a good idea for Humboldt, you did not address that a few people own most of the property and charge what they damn please. Charging rents that are comparable to urban communities and cities needs to be addressed , not just letting certain people build more housing and collect profitable rents to enable their children to live and go off on vacations and have no vision or clue to work or develop this economy.

    Not all generational families are like that but some Dumboldtians prefer to attack anyone who is well off or rich. That attitude needs to change in Humboldt and others need to realize renters do not need to subsidize their spoiled offspring. And these offspring, some are liberal , some are conservative.

    Humboldt has a fear of non natives.

    Yeah, the comment is wordy but I am sick of the elephant in the room not being addressed.


    • Scott says:

      Just because the LAO didn’t say “rural communities” doesn’t mean their solutions don’t apply here. It’s simple economics; supply and demand.

      You blame the high cost of rent on “a few people” and then abruptly transition into some rant about privileged children. This is clearly an attack on the “well off”. When you said “Dumboldtian” were you referring to yourself?

      BTW, “the elephant in the room not being addressed” is redundant.


      • John Chiv says:

        Scott, you need to read before you type and not selectively. A rant against the well off?

        You don’t know me, any of my views, or what I base my opinion on and shoot your mouth off based on one comment.

        Using your pathetic logic, you must be one of those privileged spoilt brats or natives who are against growth so you can keep hiring incompetent people and rip off locals.

        I pointed out what the study said and one big reason why it won’t work in Humboldt. Scott, other than commenting on THC, what have you done to create or help one person with jobs or housing that you judge?


      • Anonymous says:

        Boy this Chiv person sure has a chip on their shoulder. Be mellow dude.


  7. Scott says:

    Is the title of your article paying homage to Gawker or ripping it off? Just curious.


  8. Shak says:

    Logical article with extremely valid points. I hope to see many follow ups & coalition pushes.
    This is not just local, it’s every county. Through the globalization programs, counties are already merging together. Delaware & Missouri are just two of the confirmed states who have dropped the elected county sheriff’s role & replacing with regional. This “housing” is just a symptom, look deeper.


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