Combating NIMBYism

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62 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    A number of things confuse me about this article…

    in #1, you conflate renters with property owners. And while renters and property owners interests can and do align often, they also are in very different positions vis a vis development. Most renters who tend towards NIMBYism do so for what I’ll call “quality of life” reasons; with regards to housing and development, this tends to be about maintaining the “feel” of a neighborhood or a certain visual aesthetic. Property owners — particularly those who rent out their properties — are generally going to be more concerned for economic reasons: more supply counteracts demand and (theoretically) lowers rent. Absent from this are potential property owners or those would be part of the development. Property owners — especially those who own rental units — are not monolith. The guy who owns the 3-floor walkup is no more a “property owner” or legitimate in his feelings than the billionaire who owns a 30-floor luxury unit and wants to build another one two blocks over.

    In #1 and #2, you take a weird position wherein you seem to decry those who oppose development as more than just “naive children” but then take to task “cranks… with imaginary axes to grind”. That feels unfair, especially as you call for fairness in consideration of another group.

    I agree that we’d be best served to address the housing crunch in certain cities. This is necessarily going to be harder in those cities that face geographic constraints (i.e, New York and San Francisco). But I’m confused why you talk about 20-year time horizons. A motivated builder can put a building up in a year or two. If we make it easier to build, more buildings will be built. Even if most of these are luxury condo, there will be an impact on housing overall and the benefits will be felt. And that effect can be augmented by well-developed affordable housing requirements. Too often those laws have no teeth or are written in conjunction with property developers and therefore are easily skirted or can be manipulated to put all the affordable housing in one part of town and all the luxury housing in another.

    I’m on board with putting in protections for long-term residents and other vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, the people who are often driving these conversations fall into neither category. They tend to be young white folks with good incomes who want to live in popular, thriving areas but bemoan the cost of doing so. Personally, I find this group highly unsympathetic (even though I’m arguably a part of it!… I just don’t expect to actually get what I want in this regard…).Report

  2. Damon says:

    Anytime someone makes a zoning change or there’s a public hearing, it’s usually just the motivated antis or pro folks that show up. They are the only ones really incentivised The regular guy, who actually might care doesn’t want to spend the time or is busy at work and can’t take off. Like that’s not intentional. Only something really big gets folks out and motivated.

    And you’re not going to throw up a building in one year. It’ll take that long to get the permits. Longer forthe enviro stuff and SOMEONE will object to the plans. Two or three plan revisions in front of the board and maybe it’ll pass. Hell, it took 6 months for the county that I work in to issue an occupancy permit for a building that we REMODELED.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Damon says:


      I don’t know what goes into the permitting process, but expediting permitting would be a big step in the right direction if the goal is to alleviate housing crunches by constructing more housing.Report

      • Damon in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m not sure either, but I’d expect that that would probably require state level changes in some laws, particularly environmental, but I’m not sure. Hell, I’d be for it though.Report

  3. Kim says:

    The recommended rate comes with a car, dude!
    San Francisco has a much lower cost of living than you’d think, even though people do fork over tons towards housing. At the end of the day, people can only afford to pay for so much — and food is cheap, cheap, cheap there!Report

  4. North says:

    Not a bad post at all, some scattershot thoughts and quibbles.

    I think #1 is inverted a bit. Construction advocates like me view the renters and anti-development groups as the “naive children”. The building owners are, indeed, behaving very rationally and they’re merely using the excuses you outline as fig leaf covers for their more prosaic financial goals or perhaps on a surface level assuaging guilt with the magical thinking that is so common in this line of argument. But you are correct, NIMBYism is supremely rational for property owners which is what makes it so dangerous.

    Organizing is good, sure, engagement is good as well but if the organizations and engagement push “solutions” that just make the situation worse then you’re moving backwards rather than forward. Like anti-eviction laws for instance. My sister once dabbled in property ownership in Montreal purchasing and living in a 3-plex in that highly rent controlled city with its powerful anti-eviction policies. It took her about two years to get one of their non-rent paying tenant occupied units emptied and they elected to leave the unit empty rather than rent it out again because in that market a vacant building is worth significantly more than an occupied one. If you create rules and regulations that make it more valuable to not rent out housing then do not be surprised when people choose not to rent out housing space and housing supplies plummet. Also do not decry it when renters have to virtually do job interviews to rent out apartments. If you make it really hard to evict a tenant then you’re going to make it really hard to get an apartment in the first place and your most marginal tenants (aka the most impoverished and disadvantaged) may not get one at all. This is so obvious that it continually baffles me as to why it flies over housing advocates heads.

    With the badly distorted markets I would pessimistically expect that ironing out the problems could potentially take as long as it took to create them in the first place. Rent control is around a century old or so in the US’s biggest problem cities and even assuming you cold wave a wand and vanish those toxic structures with their layers and layers of regulations and programs it would probably take some time to build up enough to sort out the supply imbalances. Houses and especially high density housing doesn’t build quick.

    I remain baffled by the endless pot-shotting at luxury housing. If someone builds a mess of new high end luxury housing it necessarily draws people out of lower end housing as the various residents move up. Some critics claim that this enables more rich people to move in from abroad but this is nonsensical. If someone is wealthy and they wish to live in a dense urban area then they will live in said dense urban area. They won’t be kept away by a lack of housing; they’ll simply buy themselves some midrange or low end housing then combine it into a housing unit to suit their tastes. I work in a condo mortgage related line of business and the stream of combination units in New York and LA that come across my desk is unending. That’s affordable housing the advocates are destroying and they’re doing it by preventing construction of “luxury developments”. The only way to keep the rich out of a desirable urban area would be to make said area so undesirable that no one wants to live there anymore, not exactly an appealing prospect for the poor people who live there. That people who decry the power of the wealthy so abruptly develop amnesia about the power of wealth is puzzling.

    I would like to reiterate regarding your link to the TNR article as I did before: The example couple in that article are indeed very sympathetic but the game is given away early by observing that they never planned for their long term housing needs and they undercut their own interests with a series of bad choices earlier in life (possibly brought on by dementia). I am doubtful that you can tailor public policy to correct for that kind of self-destructive error. When you say policy needs to encourage more “long term renting” you seem to be advocating for more rigidity in housing supplies. If that’s what you advocate then you should not be shocked when the supply dwindles, established renters behave like NIMBY’s and poor disadvantaged renters end up bearing the burden of those policies. I also am left mostly unmoved by appeals for the elderly to be able to stay in “their neighborhoods”. Once you’re retired on a fixed income it’d seem that if you haven’t taken steps to stay in your neighborhood then maybe moving to one that better suits your income level makes better sense.

    For my own part I’m of the opinion that building permitting needs to be more centralized- more state wide than neighborhood or city wide. Making it easier to get permits to build (while emphatically maintaining health/safety building codes) is an obvious first step. Rent control and its various misbegotten kin need to be resisted and rolled back where possible. A possible compromise could exist in mandated low income housing where developers can easily get permits for developments if a certain % of their units are developed for sale as lower or moderate income range units. Those controls eventually expire and fade out but it offers some relief more immediately and distorts the market a lot less.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

      Interestingly Singapore placed limits and taxes on the kinds of property non-citizens can purchase. Foreigners can’t purchase houses and need to pay higher property taxes. This helped keep housing costs in check. They would be completely unworkable and likely unconstitutional in the United States.

      I have a hard time telling tough luck to people because of dementia. No one chooses to have it!

      Luxury housing probably just offers a stalk reminder to people that they are considered undesirable by society and politicians at large. Imagine you were a working-class person whose family has lived in an area for decades. All the sudden politicians and wonky types talk about the benefits of luxury condos and ads show up with people who are young, attractive, and wealthy. Would you feel on the margins? I agree with you on policy but you have to look at the symbolism.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Singapore is smaller and younger. I suspect you’ll find that policy vanishing as time goes on.

        Policy isn’t fairy tales Saul, you know that, there’s always a hard luck story but the question is trade offs. If you make a policy that bails out the hard luck dementia case then you’re going to discover a proliferation of hard luck “dementia” cases, also your public fisc is going to hemmorage money like a bust dog.

        I suppose you have a point on symbolism but it bears remembering that the symbolism is so salient primarily because those housing markets have already been crashed into trees by well meaning housing interventions. If one makes it hard to build and undesirable to lease out units then only the most desirable, the highest margin and least regulated housing (in other words luxury housing) will get built. Shocking, those wretched human beings following incentives.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

      I know you like to describe yourself as a technocrat but most people do not. Psychological symbolism really matters to people. Whether it should or should not is irrelevant.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        If you feed them nothing but mantras and symbolism then eventually they will notice that your words don’t match up to their reality and you end up like the GOP establishment with an insurrection and a Trump on your law.

        Psychological symbolism certainly does matter to people, my being technocratically minded and is why I am neither a marketer, a clergyman, an affordable housing advocate, a politician or other such breeds of liars.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to North says:

          If you want to explain the rise of Bernie Sanders in a sentence, an upper middle class neoliberal describing affordable housing advocates as liars because of their temerity not to buy into everything free market uber alles neoliberals think about housing policy from their Ivory Tower is a good start.Report

          • North in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            I categorize them in with politicians which seems reasonably fair to me. The neoliberals are in pretty tolerable company on housing policy with all the economists and the historians agreeing with their general approach on the matter. The politics of it, however, remain utterly intractable primarily because of the typical classic conundrum of the benefits of the current system redounding to the most active and interested parties while the penalties fall mainly on the unaware or the powerless.Report

          • Agreed!

            Thinking that people other than the very wealthy have the right to be be able to afford a place to live does not make one a shuckster.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to North says:

          If you feed them nothing but mantras and symbolism then eventually they will notice that your words don’t match up to their reality and you end up like the GOP establishment with an insurrection and a Trump on your law.

          This is brilliantly put, @northReport

    • Joe Sal in reply to North says:

      Salient comment North.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

      If someone builds a mess of new high end luxury housing it necessarily draws people out of lower end housing as the various residents move up.

      If people actually live in that housing. But sometimes they don”t. Often they buy it for investments and leave it for investments, because they know the housing market in Vancouver will keep going up for the foreseeable future (even the 2008 US collapse barely put a dent in it). For this reason, I support taxes and restrictions on non-resident homeowners in cities. Ideally, I’d favour squatters’ rights as a solution, but it’s harder to squat in an unoccupied apartment than in a house.

      Furthermore, yes, rich people are more likely to move into the urban core of a city if there are a lot of luxury apartments there. You get more and more of the better-off people moving into the core, and middle-class people being pushed out farther away.

      And there is a finite amount of space in cities. (At least in ones like Vancouver, bounded on three sides by mountains, ocean, and international border.) The more luxury condos there are, the less space there is for affordable apartment buildings.

      The median – MEDIAN – home price in Greater Vancouver is now over $600,000, and this is in a city with one of the highest population densities in Canada. Vancouver isn’t going to run out of rich people who want to live there anytime soon, so something – even to the level of simply refusing to zone condos that are above a certain price – needs to be done in order to ensure that people besides the incredibly wealthy will be able to live in it.

      Or, as a last ditch, have the government but the property and build affordable housing. But markets can’t solve this, because markets don’t have a problem with only the rich being able to live in an urban centre. Believe me, there are enough rich people who want to live in Vancouver to fill up the whole city centre, leaving no housing for anyone else. But they want to live in plush digs.Report

      • North in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Katherine, I personally don’t have any objections to higher taxes and fees on absentee or vacant housing owners so I don’t think we disagree there at all.

        Vancouver’s housing complaints in general, however, leave me pretty cold. I’m far from an expert on that housing market but it seems to me that slapping a huge development straight jacket on the city in the form of the Agricultural Land Reserve leaves further liberal housing proponents with very little leg to stand on when they complain about the lack of housing. Maybe if the priority was housing for people instead of locavore agricultural produce?

        I can also assure you that rich people who wish to live in an urban core will simply move there. It isn’t that hard to acquire a couple lower income housing units and merge them to suit your taste. It’s common business in New York and the like and it’s no doubt common in Vancouver as well.Report

        • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

          It’s silly to deliberately build over prime agricultural land. Even more so when the rainy west coast is one of the regions of the world with the best chance of remaining fertile in the face of climate change.

          It just make sense. Why spend tons and tons of money, and massive amounts of fresh water, in order to grow things in places that are basically deserts (like much of California) rather than in places that are genuinely suited for agriculture and don’t require such overwhelming investments?

          Simultaneously building over top of good growing land while spending hundreds of millions of dollars to grow crops in marginal land does not make sense to me.

          I’m not a locavore; I’m practical. A hundred-mile-diet during winter in most parts of Canada is a great way to get scurvy. In a lot of places, importing food from somewhere else rather than trying to grow food on land (or in a climate) that’s unsuited to agriculture is probably better for the environment on the whole. Some places are good for farming, and some aren’t. And for the same reason, I don’t think there’s a good cause for wasting high-quality agricultural land by paving over it. Even more so with climate change – if California reverts to desert, the Sahara expands, and the prairies turn into a dust bowl, we’ll be glad that we decided to avoid wasting what we’ve got.

          And I don’t believe that the ALR is why Vancouver property prices are high, or why people are having issues living there. The demand isn’t for property to live in the vicinity of Chilliwack, it’s to live in the city.Report

      • j r in reply to KatherineMW says:

        If people actually live in that housing. But sometimes they don”t. Often they buy it for investments and leave it for investments, because they know the housing market in Vancouver will keep going up for the foreseeable future (even the 2008 US collapse barely put a dent in it).

        This needs to be more precise to be meaningful. There are people who buy expensive apartments as a place to park their cash and their are people who own apartments that they rent out instead of living in. My guess is that the category “non-owner occupied” has a lot more of the latter than of the former, but for whatever reason the opposite is assumed. And it’s not clear to me why those folks ought to pay some kind of punitive penalty.Report

        • KatherineMW in reply to j r says:

          I’m not talking about “non-owner occupied”, I’m talking about non-occupied.

          Although I also see no reason to privilege people who are buying apartments in order to rent them out (which typically does mean “buying them as a investment because proporty prices are high, and renting them out in the interim”) and therefore want prices high, over people who want to live in those apartment and therefore want prices low. In addition, absentee landlords can be a serious problem if they don’t ensure their property is well-maintained.Report

        • KatherineMW in reply to j r says:

          When I lived in Vancouver (in a big house with about 9 occupants, in an upscale neighbourhood), virtually all of the other equally large houses in the neighbourhood were uninhabited – owned as investments. For the eight months I lived there, I don’t think I met a single other person who lived in my neighbourhood, aside from my housemates. We’re talking about an approximately 5-block by 7-block area (or 3.5km square). The other ones were owned as investments, because they were hugely valuable (and likely nobody other than investors could afford them.)

          If they were set up in the way our house was, with a bunch of renters, that’s housing for at least few hundred people at affordable rates, in a quite central location. And it was just sitting empty.Report

    • Francis in reply to North says:

      Well, my lengthy comment below got no traction, so I’ll try again here:

      “For my own part I’m of the opinion that building permitting needs to be more centralized- more state wide than neighborhood or city wide”


      Along with choosing a life partner (or not), choosing one’s desired place to live is just about the most personal and intimate a decision anyone makes. So why should (a) urban voters control the planning and growth decisions of rural areas and (b) one urban area have a say in the plans of another?

      People move out of LA County to escape the crowds. What possible rationale exists for giving me and Burt the voting power to keep our density constant and instead vote to shift growth onto the escapees?

      San Francisco really is a special case. The counties up there are way too small, so housing and traffic decisions are externalized across county lines in a way that should be internalized.

      Ultimately, the problem is that far too many voters don’t consider housing to be just another marketplace with barriers to clearing prices. Voters assign very high emotional values to their housing and living decisions. They then vote on those values (the bastards), which inevitably result in all the inefficiencies in the market so ably discussed by many people here.

      Now, one way to solve that problem is to dilute the vote (by, for example, moving land use decisions to a higher tier of government). But that’s really pretty anti-democratic. And putting the politics aside, having played an active role in the process of land use decision-making, the thought of creating a centralized bureaucracy with permitting power truly frightens me. A local planning official going beyond the scope of his power can pretty easily be checked with a phone call to the city councilman. Who’s going to have the power to check a bureaucrat with state-wide power?

      For examples on this point, please see the California Coastal Commission and – for grins – the federal Bureau of Land Management.Report

      • North in reply to Francis says:

        Frankly Francis getting it even city wide would probably be okay with me. California is outside my area of expertise but as the people pour in, the housing prices skyrocket and the pressures increase something has to give. I grant that everyone who buys a home wants their neighborhood to remain preserved in amber just like it was when they bought it; what person doesn’t? I do not see the desirability of granting individuals that level of veto power: it paralyses development, pushes the economically disadvantaged to the periphery of cities and empowers my own clans’ worst tendencies. Just as I don’t think that historic privileges granted to farmers when water was cheap and plentiful should chain us for all eternity I don’t think that NIMBY’s should be able to lock their neighborhoods in stasis.Report

  5. Roland Dodds says:

    “Notice of Public Hearing.”

    I attended one of these hearings a few years ago in the Bay Area (I had a passing interest in the construction/renovation of a building in my neighborhood). It was a testament to the power a few galvanized activists can have on a culture via the boring and mundane levers in a democratic society. A few “cranks” (although, I must say, I found many of their arguments about gentrification and the environment convincing at the time….I don’t know if they would hold up in my mind today) basically dominated the meeting and brought up every possible legal avenue they had to stop the project from happening. I imagine the same would be true in San Fran, but with well to do landlords making a more focused pitch for limited development.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Roland Dodds says:

      Also germane to the public hearing:

      “People on the pro-building side tend to have busier jobs and just want hang out with families and friends after work. They don’t want to spend their time listening to or arguing with cranks at public hearings. But these public hearings show politicians who cares about what and if the pro-building side can’t bother to show up, why should the politicians listen?”

      It’s also noteworthy that the folks who are on the pro-building side have a tendency to be younger, poorer, and minority… and the anti-building side have a tendency to be older, more well off, and white.

      Politicians (assuming they’re career politicians and want to get re-elected) already have a vested interest in paying more attention to older folks because older folks vote more. Let’s say 100 people show up at a meeting, and they’re split 50-50 on the pro- v. anti-building side. The pro side are diverse, younger, maybe very loud and maybe very politically active. The anti side are predominantly upper-middle to lower-upper class, older, maybe nowhere near as loud.

      Extrapolating from the 100 people that show up at the public hearing… the 40 people who are representatives of your local historical preservation society or neighborhood association who are 55 and older and support “don’t build” v. the 10 people of the same general classification who support build… that means 80% of the most likely voters are coming down on side X. Now you’ve got 40 folks in the “for building” column v. 10 that aren’t, and that means that 80% of the “do build” folks are much less likely to vote (in some cases, in rates much less than half of the anti-side).

      Your average demographically-aware politician can do the math: if the folks showing up to the meeting are at all representative of the general population in their district, going with the “don’t build” folks means you are supporting the position held by 65% of the likely voters in the next election instead of 35%.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Patrick says:

        I am not sure I fully agree with your contentions because gentrification distorts a lot of things.

        Most pro-builders tend to be young, educated, and fairly well off in observation. Most are not being priced out.

        There are also plenty of minorities that are anti-gentrification because it means displacement of their communities and themselves. I have seen this play out in the SF. The failed moratorium on condos in the Mission was largely supported by groups representing the long-time Hispanic residents. There are posters in my neighborhood urging the traditional African-American residents to organize a rent strike and resist condos.

        Cities and suburbs might be different beasts though.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    What North said about luxury housing. We know that urban living is becoming attractive again to middle and upper income earning people even if they have kids. They are going to move into the city anyway whether lower income groups like it or not. If you don’t build luxury housing than they will just buy or rent lower quality housing by out bidding working class people and sprucing it up to meet their standards. Building luxury housing with amenities prevents this from happening even more.

    As to the solution, its do what Japan does. You move zoning and building permits to the highest level of government possible like North said. This will make it harder for the cranks/passionate advocates/property owners to create bad policy by dominating the meetings. When you have these public meetings at a very local level, only the most passionate, dedicated, and self-interested people show up. This is why we get a lot of contradictory and bad policy.Report

  7. Oscar Gordon says:

    I want to start first by saying this is a very well done post, Saul.

    One quibble: I hate the phrase “people on a fixed income” to describe retirees or people on disability/assistance. Being on a fixed income can be a blessing because it makes budgeting very easy. Part time hourly workers, who don’t have a “fixed income” are actually the most at risk. My wife & I are both salaried and our income is pretty damn well fixed except for very occasional raises or bonuses. Come to think of it, workers who can get overtime aren’t on a fixed income either, and depending on their job, they can make some serious money by not having a fixed income.

    We need a better term…

    Finally, regarding point 3 – You may be right, but the important thing to remember is that landlords have to be heard too. If rent is controlled and landlords can’t turn a profit on a unit, that will be a problem. Either the rent has to be enough that the landlord can get something close to his desired profit, or the government is going to have to pitch in to cover the gap, and it has to be more than “we covered your costs exactly, no profit for you!”. Landlords have to make a living too, and not a barely scraping by living. If they are providing low cost housing, they are performing a public service and the public should compensate them for it.Report

    • As I recall, using the phrase that way came into vogue in the late 70s and early 80s, when it was used to describe the elderly on pensions and social security at a time of very high inflation. Classic wage/price inflation, so workers were getting hefty raises. Unions were, again from memory, getting three-year contracts with guaranteed raises in the 5-8% range. “Priced out of their home” at that time was the code for “have owned their house free and clear for years but can’t afford the rapidly escalating property taxes on it.” Prop 13 in California and the Gallagher Amendment in Colorado both came out of that situation.

      I agree we need something that covers all of the people whose incomes are not increasing with the cost of living.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I always took “fixed income” to be more a recognition that the folks receiving it are not in position to change it. Lots of people have a regular income that may not change to keep up with inflation (e.g., wage freezes) but who could theoretically change jobs or go in and demand a raise. Senior citizens on social security can’t really do that.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Prop 13 in California and the Gallagher Amendment in Colorado both came out of that situation.

        What also came out of that situation was a whole lot of insanity of just *reducing* property tax for the elderly, which is a situation my county is having to deal with.

        Not grandfather clauses, where the elderly get to keep paying the same rate. Nope. Just ‘The elderly don’t have to pay as much. You move here, and you’re old, we’ll charge you less property taxes for no reason. (Elderly people use less resources and spend more money, right? We can justify it that way. Wait, what do you mean that’s the other way around?)’.

        I’m amazed we retained enough presence of mind to restrict it to their primary residence, instead of giving it to people who buy vacation homes here. Or pulling over old people and handing them globs of tax money.

        Meanwhile, our schools are collapsing from lack of tax revenue.

        Everyone except the elderly hate this, of course, but non-elderly people don’t seem to vote.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Michael Cain says:

        One of the things Saul points out in the OP is that NIMBYism is rational for homeowners because high property values means their assets are worth more.

        I suspect Prop 13 really exacerbates that, since it prevents those assets from being taxed at their true value. If everyone who owned million dollar homes were taxed like they owned million dollar homes, maybe they’d be marginally less interested in further increasing their home’s value.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      What I wonder is what makes people choose short term over long term. Would you rather rent to someone who can pay 4000 dollars because of a possible bubble or someone who can pay 2000 dollars and do so on time and for years.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The vast majority of renters are going to be gone in a year or two. So taking the higher money now is blatantly and obviously rational.Report

        • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

          I’m planning on renting for the rest of my life. Compared to the price of a condominium, interest on a mortgage, property taxes, and condo fees, it’s a better option for a single person.

          Why would I want to move every year instead of just choosing an apartment and settling in it?Report

          • North in reply to KatherineMW says:

            Have you? Are you settled in an apartment you intend to reside in for decades? Would you say that is typical because it does not appear to be the case for most renters.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:


              Might I argue that you have a bit of selection bias probably? Young people especially young educated people might move every year or two. SF and NYC are still mainly filled with renters. My guess is that as renters get older and/or start families and/or are working class and/or people of color, they want to stay in the same apartment. I have lived in my apartment for over 7 years.Report

              • There is definitely some truth to the notion that as you get older, the enthusiasm for moving diminishes. At that point, though, buying (and being able to buy) is the more optimal outcome.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Many of those folks in NYC are empowered to do so by rent control.Report

              • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I’m not speaking from personal experience Saul, as far as I know, and I will grant that I could be wrong, people in general only reside in apartments for a few years except for in places where they have very strong reasons to remain where they are (rent control and it’s misbegotten ilk*).

                Look I know the rich are fun to kick and the further left doesn’t get spoken of kindly by neoliberals or centrists (let along conservatives) but are there any arguments here other than empty appeals to emotionalism? It is not like the utter failure of rent control and it’s ilk is controversial, the literature on it is pretty uniform in its condemnation. It’s not like rich people can’t buy a couple income units in a desirable area and then turn them into a larger high income unit. It is not like NIMBYism doesn’t exist. It’s not like if you make it hard to evict then people simply won’t rent out in the first place or will be extremely choosy about who they rent to. If the only response to substantive protests about these well meaning but ultimately destructive policies is “you don’t care about the poor” then there’s something seriously wrong. We have, as liberals, seen where this road leads before. And I’d note that we don’t exactly have a sober bunch of conservatives in the wings waiting to run things if we re-discredit liberalism on all things economic again.Report

            • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

              Not yet – I only moved last fall, and on short notice (and currently have a roommate for budgetary reasons, which isn’t my lifelong plan). But in a few years, yes, I’ll be looking for somewhere to live in the long term. Moving is too expensive and bothersome to do continually.

              College and university students can be expected to be short-term, but otherwise, unless someone has a job that requires extensive mobility, I don’t see why they would want to hop around continually – unless the places they rent are crap and they need to get away, or unless their job moves to somewhere else.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to KatherineMW says:

            But isn’t one of the tradeoffs of renting is less long-term security?Report

  8. Francis says:

    A very brief lesson in California development law:

    Land use planning in California starts with the General Plan. Each city and county is required to have a General Plan, which lays out (among other things) that agency’s housing goal, ie, location of housing, density, housing mix, affordability, relationship to job sites and transportation, etc. In theory a General Plan is good for five years or so. But General Plans are relatively easy to amend, so the degree to which a public agency considers itself bound by its General Plan is largely a political one. Communities seeing rapid growth (like the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles prior to 2007) tend to elect pro-growth politicians who are willing to accept rapid and significant changes to the General Plan. Built-out communities (like the bulk of Los Angeles County except out where Burt lives) tend to elect pro-stability politicians who see themselves more bound to the General Plan.

    General Plans may certainly encompass a strategy of increasing density in a built environment. And across LA County, there are cities and places within the county that are doing so. Hollywood, for example, designated a couple of corridors where high-density housing is to built, and the development is following the General Plan. But because General Plans are first and foremost political documents, an anti-growth community can certainly elect anti-growth politicians who will approve and enforce General Plans that do not contemplate significant increases in density.

    The General Plan law has been in place since the 70s. Shifting planning power from local agencies to Sacramento would be a tremendous change, likely opposed by pretty much everybody.

    Implementing a General Plan by approving a particular development application triggers a second major law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA requires that governments consider the environmental impacts of their approvals through the preparation of detailed analyses known as environmental impact reports (EIRs). EIRs cover things like impacts to traffic, noise, pollution, parks, schools, police, fire, water, wastewater, power, etc. (I used to read these things for a living.)

    The preparation of a useful and defensible (I also used to litigate these things) EIR is highly dependent on local knowledge. Shifting the responsibility for preparing these things to a Sacramento bureaucracy would be a disaster.

    The common solution (preferred by the Governor among others) is to create exemptions to CEQA that would allow local agencies to approve certain types of developments without having to prepare an EIR. But the Democratic Party controls the Legislature and the environmental community is a major player in the Democrats. So building the political constituency for significant CEQA exemptions is a major lift.

    And, it should be pointed out, upzoning can have huge impacts on a community. For example, what’s the water supply availability? Why should existing residents be more likely to suffer drought simply by accepting newcomers? Or (another perennial favorite), how bad is the traffic?

    At a more fundamental basis, the proponents of changing how planning works in California need to persuade me (and millions like me) that planning should be done on a state-wide basis. Why, precisely, should Los Angeles voters be able to control San Francisco land use decisions, and vice versa? And would a statewide planning office really change anything, or would it just defer to local demands?

    My personal belief is that more real enforceable planning power should be vested in regional coalitions of governments (COGs) in those places where development impacts are truly inter-city and inter-county. But the proponents of that viewpoint tend to be a small coalition of land use planners and attorneys, while the opposition is the elected officials who currently exercise that power. Guess who has more clout.Report

    • Lyle in reply to Francis says:

      The complicated process outlined above is a good reason to move east, to NV, Az or further east. Interestingly NV outside of the Las Vegas area is just plain empty, (recall the Loneliest road in America cuts across it thru Austin Eureka and Ely. Of course I also wonder about how hard it is to get permits in Barstow or Needles or Susanville or even Eureka,Ca.. (actually the latter location would be a good one for data centers since it is on fiber lines, as well as far from eathquakesReport

    • Will Truman in reply to Francis says:

      This makes some good points. If counties are of sufficient size (or collections of counties), that’s a pretty good level to use. It’s when it’s done by municipalities, or small counties, that it starts getting rotten.

      (Says the guy who questions the existence of municipal government in the first place.)Report