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Friday, September 17, 2021

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UncategorizedEven a mainstream state housing group says SF's "market"...

Even a mainstream state housing group says SF’s “market” is a failure

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By Tim Redmond

Aug. 22, 2014 – The California Housing Partnership Corporation isn’t a radical left organization. It’s a quasi-governmental agency created by the state Legislature in 1988 to help coordinate and promote affordable housing development; its board members are appointed by the governor, the speaker of the state Assembly, and the Senate President Pro Tem. Its mission is to help community housing groups better understand financing options and to monitor and advocate for more affordable housing money.

All good stuff. Also nothing that politicians or real-estate developers or bankers could object to.

So when the CHPC puts out a report saying that the housing market in San Francisco has failed, it’s worthy of notice.

The terminology here is important. The report doesn’t say that the city needs more affordable housing; everyone knows that. It says the Market – the vaunted Market, that is supposed to solve the problem on its own without government intervention – not only is out of synch but is a “failure.”

It doesn’t work.

The report concludes that there’s a shortfall of 40,845 homes for the city’s poorest residents. More than 80 percent of low-income households spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and 59 percent spend more than half their income on rent.

“Many … families live in unhealthy or unsafe conditions, crowd multiple people into each room, and still pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent,” the report states.

After adjusting for inflation, it notes, median rents have increased by far more than median income.

That, of course, is part of a national trend – the cost of living is increasing far faster than the income level of most people, as the top one percent takes nearly all of the wealth and income of the nation’s economic growth.

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It’s particularly striking in SF, where, according to the report, the salary needed to afford market rent is $78,200 – and the salaries of the people who make the city’s economy work, in the biggest industries (health care, hospitality, and government) are often less than half of that.

The policy suggestions contained in the report are pretty predictable: Support Prop. K to ensure (although Prop. K doesn’t really ensure) that 33 percent of all new housing is affordable. Work to limit evictions. Go after Airbnb. All of those things that tenant groups are already talking about and have been talking about for a while.

No mention of Prop. G, the anti-speculation tax, but that may be beyond what this organization can do.

Still: Failure is a big word when it comes to housing markets. And what this non-radical group is confirming is that market-based solutions are a waste of time. You can’t build enough market-rate housing fast enough to have any impact on the prices that most working San Franciscans would have to pay for “market-rate” housing.

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The CHPC would like to see more money at the state and federal level for affordable housing, and so would I, and so would pretty much everyone who discusses this issue in San Francisco. Ain’t going to happen any time soon.

So the underlying message of this report is to confirm what the folks on the left have been saying: Tight, effective regulation and profound, dramatic, immediate government action is needed to address a catastrophic market failure.

Good to see Jerry Brown’s appointees are on board with that.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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7 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like a completely divisive and miserable way to live. Like rich people can’t be community driven and kind. Guess you need to dehumanize them in order to feel like you are better than them. Join a forum like nextdoor.com and you’ll see the most active members are your neighbors who are new home and TIC owners, not your “old character” types who you’d like to believe are the only good citizens in this city.

  2. Money is king, nothing is sacred. As a LONG TERM (more than 30 years) resident, I’ve seen atrocious behavior in this city, the last 5 years especially. Anyone who expects graciousness, kindness, appropriateness or “forward thinking” is just not realistic. Idiots are milking this town for every penny. My prescription for sanity is: Expect atrocious behavior and then the small joys will be refreshing. Meanwhile: kiss the old character goodbye and imagine a new city with something else (of value) to offer as “best case scenario”. Let go of all institutions of: community, organization, care for the poor and you’ll never be disappointed. The a-holes are fierce, entitled and unconscious. Start there and build an opinion, that’s how I’ve changed, and now— I don’t cry for this city anymore. It deserves whatever it gets, because “it” is a whole new ball game.

  3. Eleen, I don’t know where you see any rage. I am very happy and comfortable with the direction the local economy and its housing market is taking.

    Rather I was expressing incredulity that anyone can rationally expect every poor person who wants to to somehow miraculously be able to live in an expensive town that they clearly cannot afford. Why would they not instead aspire to live in a place they know that they can afford? You have not addressed nor answered that very basic question.

  4. Oh “Sam” – your rage barely allows you to spell these days. Your rage would be much better spent on these actual opinions…

    http://valleywag.gawker.com/there-is-an-ever-growing-and-pervasive-mindset-in-silic-1624299975

    “There is an ever-growing and pervasive mindset in Silicon Valley that firmly believes that creating a willing underclass (caste) of un-educated of Dabbawalas with no possible financial or educational advancement is both an ethical and profitable economic possibility.

    Most of these people have never done an ‘honest’ day’s work.”

  5. People always use the Pacific Heights analogy to describe SF these days. Pretty sad that an entire, diverse city with working-class areas and hubs for new immigrants is now being likened to a luxury neighborhood for California’s richest individuals.

  6. Their arguments seems to be that the SF housing market has “failed” because it doesn’t provide affordable housing to anyone and everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

    That’s not failure; it’s an inevitability everywhere and certainly in a desirable town. You might as well say that housing market of Monteceito (average home price – $4 million) has failed because poor people can’t afford to live there.

    Another crushing failure of their analysis is regarding SF as a standalone town with nothing surrounding it. The reality is of course that many who work in SF but cannot afford to live here simply commute from cheaper towns in the Bay Area.

    Considering only SF is ridiculous. you might as well say that the housing market has failed because not everyone can afford to live in Pacific Heights.

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