There was an issue that THC felt was barely given lip-service during the recent local election cycle, and that is Humboldt’s all-around lack of affordable housing.
So what’s THC’s one simple solution to the problem? If we had to say it directly to the Supervisors or other elected officials, we’d make it simple (so they could understand!), and say “Build more housing, assholes!”
If we were to give a slightly longer answer, we’d say it’s critically important to increase the overall housing stock in Humboldt County, whether it is “affordable” housing or otherwise, which has been shown to – gasp! – mean there’s more housing to go around. Meaning that prices go down, and people aren’t forced to compete for an ever-dwindling supply of housing. Most importantly, for many of us in Humboldt, is that we won’t fall prey (at least, not as often) to the ridiculously high rents charged by most landlords and management companies in Humboldt. More private housing construction makes housing affordable for renters and buyers alike.
So, after the homeless issue came to a head in Humboldt, highlighted by our severe lack of housing – affordable or otherwise – it sure seems it got swept under the rug after our leaders gave it lip-service. But maybe that’s because they’re too damn stupid to recognize the solutions as outline by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. Basically, again, BUILD MORE HOUSING ASSHOLES!
How do we achieve this? By making it easier for private construction and individuals to build homes. Of course, many of the barriers to easing housing restrictions come from the State. But just as there are many simple ways that we could ease burdens on developers in Humboldt to encourage job growth and increase tax revenue, so to are there easy ways to just plain make it easier for people to build houses. The same easing of restrictions would also apply to multi-family, affordable housing as well.
Waive fees. Provide incentives. Boom. Done! But don’t just take it from us; take if from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, and their report from back in February, Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing. (Seriously, read that shit!) But here’s the LAO summary:
“California has a serious housing shortage. California’s housing costs, consequently, have been rising rapidly for decades. These high housing costs make it difficult for many Californians to find housing that is affordable and that meets their needs, forcing them to make serioustrade–offs in order to live in California.
In our March 2015 report, California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences, we outlined the evidence for California’s housing shortage and discussed its major ramifications. 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. An expansion of California’s housing supply would offer widespread benefits to Californians, as well as those who wish to live in California but cannot afford to do so.
Some fear, however, that these benefits would not extend to low–income Californians. Because most new construction is targeted at higher–income households, it is often assumed that new construction does not increase the supply of lower–end housing. In addition, some worry that construction of market–rate housing in low–income neighborhoods leads to displacement of low–income households. In response, some have questioned whether efforts to increase private housing development are prudent. These observers suggest that policy makers instead focus on expanding government programs that aim to help low–incomeCalifornians afford housing.
In this follow up to California’s High Housing Costs, we offer additional evidence that facilitating more private housing development in the state’s coastal urban communities would help make housing more affordable for low–income Californians. Existing affordable housing programs assist only a small proportion of low–income Californians. Most low–income Californians receive little or no assistance. Expanding affordable housing programs to help these households likely would be extremely challenging and prohibitively expensive. It may be best to focus these programs on Californians with more specialized housing needs—such as homeless individuals and families or persons with significant physical and mental health challenges.
Encouraging additional private housing construction can help the many low–incomeCalifornians who do not receive assistance. Considerable evidence suggests that construction of market–rate housing reduces housing costs for low–income households and, consequently, helps to mitigate displacement in many cases. Bringing about more private home building, however, would be no easy task, requiring state and local policy makers to confront very challenging issues and taking many years to come to fruition. Despite these difficulties, these efforts could provide significant widespread benefits: lower housing costs for millions of Californians.”
In the full report, you can read about how rent-control policies are ineffective and unable to cope with the millions of low-income Californians that “need” housing subsidies. Not only can such policies not meet current demands, but further expanding them beyond the fraction of low-income households that they currently benefit is not feasible. So why pursue unrealistic and exorbitantly expensive policies that ultimately fail to serve the people they should?
The easy alternative, as we’ve mentioned elsewhere, is to make building easier. The LAO report notes that “Even in inland areas [in CA], where land costs are comparable to the national average, housing is far more expensive than national norms. This is driven by development fees that in 2012 averaged $22,000 (not including water fees) for single-family homes — nearly four times the national average.” Four times the national average? We’ve got a novel idea – cut that shit down! Jeez.
And it’s not just the LAO that says these things. Take this excerpt from an article by the California Apartments Association (disclaimer: we did zero research into this particular organization.):
“The Legislative Analyst’s Office considered the impacts of expanding rent control in two ways — applying the policy to more properties and barring landlords from resetting rents at market rates when tenancies turn over.
“Neither of these changes would increase the supply of housing and, in fact, likely would discourage new construction,” the report says. “Households looking to move to California or within California would therefore continue to face stiff competition for limited housing, making it difficult for them to secure housing that they can afford. Requiring landlords to charge new tenants below–market rents would not eliminate this competition.””
We’ve touched on a similar LAO report in a previous post before (as did a much better journalist than we are), but that’s because we think the reports are hugely informative, and come from a relatively unbiased source. (Emphasis on relatively.)
And we’ll leave you with some very key concepts from the San Diego Union-Tribune;