“The big lie about California’s housing crisis,”
In My View, July 27
Plan Bay Area absent from housing crisis complaints
Deepa Varma’s editorial is long on complaints about huge rent increases, evictions and lack of affordability. But it does not expose the actual cause of the so-called housing crisis — mainly, the role of the Plan Bay Area Redevelopment program.
Plan Bay Area is a little-known government-sponsored scheme aimed at the replacement of low-rise, low-income neighborhoods with high-rise, high-income residents — and a dramatic increase in tax revenue. The current trend of evictions, displacement and gentrification is the direct result of the plan and it is rightly seen as a deliberate act of socio-economic cleansing of The City.
Interestingly, Plan Bay Area (and other redevelopment programs throughout the U.S.) are based on the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling “Kelo vs. New London Connecticut,” which allowed the city to declare a particular low-income neighborhood as a form of “blight” and bring condemnation proceedings against the property. Developers were then eligible for government subsidies to build high-end housing and other amenities. However, Plan Bay Area also provides subsidies for developers who build expensive apartments and other commercial ventures, thereby gentrifying the affected neighborhoods and increasing the property tax base.
Older neighborhoods in The City (such as the Mission and the South of Market area) are a prime example of redevelopment gone wrong with low- and middle-income residents being forced out in order to make way for expensive homes and luxury amenities. Although Plan Bay Area is now affecting mostly low-income residents, it’s gradually burning its way up through the middle class and eventually no one will be safe from this noxious program. Putting things in perspective, the housing conditions in the Bay Area are already beginning to look like a third-world country with thousands of impoverished people living on the streets.
Plan Bay Area is being aggressively promoted by the real estate industry (and also a plethora of building trade unions, engineering consultants and contractors) who heavily lobby Sacramento and Washington for legislation (and loads of funding) to promote open-ended construction. The government is also major beneficiary of Plan Bay Area because vast amounts of low-value properties can then become prime real estate which also yield much higher tax revenue.
Plan Bay Area is the “big lie” about the housing crisis and it must be thoroughly exposed before the rental market can be stabilized. However, in the long run, we will need a state wide ballot initiative to abolish this insidious redevelopment scheme altogether.
Galen L. Dutch
Lacking supply is root of problem
Despite bold claims, there was little truth in Deepa Varma’s recent piece on the housing crisis. The state’s epic affordability crisis stems from our historic inability to produce housing to meet the need.
Countless studies, including by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, President Obama’s White House and McKinsey Global Institute, all conclude that lack of supply is the root problem. State housing officials estimate that California under produces housing by 100,000 units annually, on top of an already massive shortfall that has been decades in the making. With such limited supply, rents and home prices soar, pushing people to the outskirts of our region where housing is affordable and commutes are horrendous.
Varma is also wrong that rent control, which doesn’t produce a single unit of new housing, can address the problem at a structural level. A national survey of economists found that only 1 percent of respondents believed that rent controls had a positive impact on housing affordability, 4 percent were unsure, and 95 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the premise.
To address our housing crisis, we must bring down cost to build and remove the onerous regulations stifling housing. That’s the truth.
Bay Area Council