My old boss, Bruce Brugmann, who ran the Bay Guardian, told me early on in my career that you could tell the real politics of a big-city newspaper by the person they endorse for mayor.

Paul Krugman's liberal policies don't seem to apply to cities
Paul Krugman’s liberal policies don’t seem to apply to cities

Nice liberal outfits like the New York Times support Democrats for president and (typically) governor and US Senate. The SF Chronicle doesn’t endorse many Republicans any more. But when it comes to the local stuff, the decisions on who should run the city where they live and operate and connect with the power structure, the truth comes out.

The Times loved Ed Koch and backed Michael Bloomberg. The paper didn’t endorse Bill DeBlasio in the Democratic primary. The Chron backed Dianne Feinstein, John Molinari, Willie Brown, Gavin , and Ed Lee.

There’s a perception that cities like SF, because they tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, and send Democrats to the state Legislature and Congress, are by nature progressive communities. And that all breaks down when it comes to local issues, particularly when they involve real estate.

The biggest Democratic Party donors in SF in the 1980 and 1990s were the members of the Shorenstein family, who hosted Bill Clinton at their home. They were also big downtown developers who spent that same Democratic money blocking any attempts to development limits.

Our Democratic member of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, is either missing or on the wrong side on pretty much every land-use and development issue back at home.

Gavin , who wants to be the next governor of California, got his start in local politics attacking homeless people.

In other words, the gentrification and displacement in San Francisco is happening despite, and I could argue with the concurrence of, some of those “liberal” Democrats who, from a distance, seem much more progressive than they are when you look at their records right here at home.

So we get what I call the phenomenon – a person who pushed and promoted legislation backed by and in part written by Airbnb, which has driven thousands of housing units off the market, gets seen as a San Francisco progressive when he’s away in Sacramento.

You can tell what a newspaper really thinks by its endorsement for mayor. And you can tell what a politician really thinks by what they do on the local issues that pit the power structure (in this case, tech, real estate, and the mayor) against the rest of the community.

Which brings me, more or less, to Paul Krugman, the great liberal economist of the New York Times.

Krugman is great on a lot of big national economic issues. He’s terrible when it comes to cities.

The guy famously came out against rent control years ago, when any urban economist with any sense knows that rent control is one of the most powerful tools agaist displacement. It’s what makes an urban middle class possible in a city like San Francisco.

And now he’s saying that cities need to reduce zoning rules and allow more housing, or any height, pretty much anywhere. He praises the idea that NY Mayor DeBlasio is pushing, which is similar to what SF Mayor Lee is pushing, which in essence cedes to the private market the responsibility to provide affordable housing and assumes that some modest percentage of “affordable” units in luxury towers that are geared to the same crooks and despots now in the news will be a real solution to the urban housing crisis.

I shouldn’t have to keep saying this, but I will: You need to build at least 30 percent affordable housing in every luxury project just to stay even, and not make things worse. Which means if you want to add to the stock of affordable housing, you have to force developers to build 40, 50, 60 percent of the units for people of more modest means.

That’s not even on the agenda in SF or NYC.

If we took Krugman’s national approach – the rich ought to pay more taxes to pay for investment in the nation’s service and infrastructure – and applied it to cities, you’d get a very different approach. Urban developer profits have created great fortunes (Shorenstein, Trump); to a great extent, local governments have failed to tax those profits at a level that’s necessary to mitigate the impacts of their projects.

Krugman ought to know that the middle class in an American city is not a natural consequence of capitalism. It requires strict regulations and controls. It means, sometimes, slowing down the booms that make a few rich so that the rest of us have a chance, too.

That’s perfect liberalism, in the old school. Except that these great scholars and writers (and politicians) don’t seem to want to bring those policies back home.

  • Tod1732

    Nancy Pelosi is ridiculed by progressives as a conservative and sometimes even a fascist.

    And yet she got the Affordable Care Act passed after three years of arm wrestling with conservatives in Congress. Ask the 17 million poor and working-class people who got health insurance for the first time in their lives under the ACA if she’s a fascist.

    Politics is about compromise. Some progressives (like Sander Claus) are stentorian top-down preachers about right and wrong. They know what’s best for you, and if you don’t agree, well, you are off the bus.

    Out in the bigger big-wide-world, the Chron is considered a moderate to liberal newspaper. Your “set” washes its hands of such ilk. Your Ayatollah mentality is why your shouting isn’t reaching many ears these days.

  • Theo

    Thanks for this analysis. I have a lot of respect for Krugman but – as you point out – his thought processes may have lacunae.

    Regarding the sad state of housing prices in San Francisco, it’s worth noting that not all world cities have the same issues. This article in Forbes points out that the housing market is quite different in Germany

    In World’s Best-Run Economy, House Prices Keep Falling — Because That’s What House Prices Are Supposed To Do

    • Tod1732

      “Thought processes with lacunae”

      Oh my. Does NYU know that it’s Distinguished Professor of Economics is empty-headed?

  • Howard Metzenberg

    Tim, I’m not sure who you think is an economist? There is essentially a consensus among economists, not just Krugman, that rent control doesn’t work.

    Here is an example of why, a story that perhaps everybody knows.

    I am traveling at the moment, in Mexico. Last night I met an American women, perhaps in her late 60s, from upstate New York. She talked about why she was for Bernie Sanders. Then she told me about how three people are living together in her Manhattan apartment. It turned out that she was subletting this apartment at a profit, and perhaps renting the apartment to her three Manhattan newcomers for a little less than they would otherwise pay for a market rate apartment. To this woman, this was fair. Of course, people involved in such elaborate efforts to fool themselves about rent control take for granted the evolution of a complex and bizarre system of rights.

    • Ragazzu

      Gee, thanks for the isolated anecdote to prove your assertion. Now ask some working San Franciscans about it.

      • zendoggie

        I guess it is an “example” if you agree with the premise. “Isolated anecdote” if you don’t. Declaring it an “anecdote” isn’t really a rebuttal. Now ask some working San Franciscans about how much rent control is helping the market currently.

  • Kyle Huey

    “[Rent control]’s what makes an urban middle class possible in a city like San Francisco.”

    Then the middle class is doomed, because rent control only provides rents the middle class can afford to people who signed leases quite a while ago. And no tenancy lasts forever.

    The irony is that I actually agree with Tim’s statement. But the operative bit here is “in a city like San Francisco.” There’s a reason cities like Houston and Atlanta can have urban middle classes without rent control but San Francisco can’t. And that’s because San Francisco refuses to allow anywhere near enough housing supply for all the people who want to live here, which bids prices into the stratosphere.

  • Yonathan Randolph

    Thank you for classifying political figures into people you disagree with (Bloomberg, Pelosi, Krugman, Chiu) and people you agree with (DeBlasio?). Would you mind actually discussing the substance of their arguments as well? Particularly, his argument that “Our big cities, even New York, could comfortably hold quite a few more families than they do.”

    I shouldn’t have to keep saying this, but I will: You need to build at least 30 percent affordable housing in every luxury project just to stay even, and not make things worse.

    You shouldn’t keep saying it, because it’s false. The residential nexus analysis has been debunked time and time again. The nexus study does not even attempt to prove that the construction of luxury housing causes high-income households to move to the city (which is key to your argument). In fact, the City Controller showed that new construction largely serves to relieve pressure on existing housing not exacerbate it, since “new movers to the City are not actually the primary occupants of new housing”. The nexus analysis might be good enough for a judge, but it’s not good enough to convince anyone in public policy and certainly not good enough for an economist. But don’t take my word for it! Read the nexus analysis itself: “It has not been prepared as a document to guide policy design in the broader context. We caution against the use of this study, or any impact study for that matter, for purposes beyond the intended use.”

    the rich ought to pay more taxes to pay for investment in the nation’s service and infrastructure

    This I agree with. Let’s get some actual progressive tax proposals, not just regressive, tortuously justified “fees.”

    I don’t mean to be overly negative, but I really want to see SF “progressives” put on the table some ideas for actually provisioning enough housing for the generation that grew up after they settled down. Thwarting housing development feels righteous until you’re actually searching for a house.

    • Jim Greer

      It’s possible to be pro-rent control and pro-density (even when projects have less than 30% below-market-rate housing). You can’t outlaw prosperity. You can’t outlaw new residents, even ones you don’t like. Nearly every luxury condo is one less Mission flat remodeled and turned luxurious.

      I also think Airbnb rentals should be limited to 60 days per year… If we need more short-term rental units, let’s build more hotels, not take housing off the market (and turn buildings that had community into places where you have new neighbors every week).

  • chris12bb

    I think San Francisco is a classic example of why rent control does not work. TIC, Owner Movin, Ellis Act, AirBNB are all a result of landlords looking for alternatives to renting. Where as rent subsidies may actually help keep little old ladies and teachers in their apartments

  • AlbertoRogers

    I’m not one to throw around the word “liar” with abandon. I always prefer to give folks the benefit of the doubt when they write or say something that is factually untrue. In this instance, the author has met my standard for using the word. Tim you are lying. You know that the American Economic Association (the national trade group for professional economists) has surveyed its membership on the issue of rent control and a whopping 93% of them agree that rent control reduces the quality and quantity of housing available in a given market. You KNOW this yet you blithely claim that “any economist worth his salt” …there’s a typo in that paragraph BTW, it makes less sense than the rest of the article…presumably agrees with your perspective on rent control.
    You are lying to your readers.

    • Yonathan Randolph

      Economists universally reject blanket price controls. San Francisco’s rent control is more nuanced because it exempts new construction and because rents reset after the tenants move out (“vacancy decontrol”). These two features are now required under state law (Costa-Hawkins). Krugman was ignorant of these key features when he wrote his 2000 article bashing San Francisco; he had assumed that San Francisco’s rent control was just like New York’s rent control.

      • RR592

        My understanding is that economists believe that price controls can work, but that the longer they are in place, the more problems arise as those who own and supply the products and services choose other business uses to escape the restrictions.

        So price controls are an excellent short-term policy for preventing price-gouging during emergencies, wars, natural disasters etc. But they become less successful the longer they exist due to the law of unintended consequences.

        Your citation of NYC’s rent control and rent stabilization systems is a good example. Introduced during WW2 it was effective at limiting housing costs during that time. There were further controls on the price of food, drugs and other essentials. All well and good. Problems arose when WW2 ended and these policies did not.

        70 years on there are some staggering distortions there, especially because of a form of vacancy control. When a tenant dies there are people reading the obituaries and trying to get that apartment. So called “key money”, sometimes five or six figure sums, is offered to secure those cheap apartments, some of which are huge and in excellent locations.

        The result? The super cheap units mostly house rich people paying less in rent than the property tax.

        And in SF, even without vacancy control, we have people spending decades in the same home, long after they really would have preferred to move, because mobility and the vacancy rate is close to zero for controlled units. Until of course the property owner gets sick of it.

      • curiousKulak

        Krugman said he was “ignorant”, but he got the VC and C-H exemptions – and our situation – right.
        “Sky-high rents on uncontrolled apartments … — and the absence of new apartment construction”
        ‘Uncontrolled unts’ = absences of VC. If there were Vacancy Control, there’d be no uncontrolled apts to worry about. In addition, the RC in NYC exempted owner-occupied 4-units or less. Our RC is LESS nuanced, as we roped & corralled those hoodlums a half decade previous to the article.

        If Tim were real, he’d link to several of those economists “with any sense”. But he doesn’t. I don’t think he can.

  • RR592

    I am not sure why Tim would claim that SF is a “progressive community”. It certainly has a good number of progressives, meaning that progressive candidates even get elected in some districts.

    But overall it would seem that the moderate centrist liberal wing of the Democrats, plus those who support other parties or are otherwise politically neutral, greatly out-number progressives.

    That of course is why moderates have been winning mayoral elections for as long as most people can remember, along with local representatives in Sacramento and Washington DC.

    And it’s the same with voter initiatives. Some progressive ones win and some of those winners are even constitutional. But then there is also a long tradition of progressive propositions losing, from the measure to implement vacancy control 20 years ago to the failure of the moratorium and the Airbnb initiative last November, along with all kinds of attempts to raise taxes.

    Isn’t the truth that almost any broadly elected Democrat will be too right wing (using that term very loosely) for Tim?

  • MKR

    This country was originally founded and has long been structured on principles of individual ownership of property, for single family homes,multigenerational farms and small businesses. The laws, policies and social structures haven’t really adapted to very dense urban populations and volatility in urban housing prices. Under those circumstances, housing becomes more of a utility and many countries regulate it as such. Plus, good urban planning means preparing for the next generations, twenty or thirty years ahead. Most city planners in the US have been looking at making money and getting re elected. Only a few have looked at who might be living in a city several decades from now and preparing accordingly. SF might be the most extreme case of bad urban planning, but compared to many European cities this country is way behind.

    • RR592

      “Under those circumstances, housing becomes more of a utility and many countries regulate it as such.”

      Can you give some examples of nations where housing is regulated in the way that the US regulates utilities?

      Not communist or third world nations, but other western nations?

      • MKR

        Germany

        • RR592

          Germany does have a system of rent control. But rents are tied to a “local average” rather than limiting either rents themselves or increases in them. Linking SF rents to the local market would not help given the prevailing market rents.

          While to my knowledge there is no cap, control or limit on what a home sells for in Germany, nor on converting rental homes to owner-occupied homes.

          Anywhere else?

          • MKR

            In Sweden there are different classifications of housing : privately owned houses, private renting, social renting and housing cooperatives. Housing cooperatives are municipal non profit housing companies run by local municipalities and open to anyone. They are organized into a national umbrella where rents are tightly controlled and determined at the national level. There are similar programs in the Netherlands, people can still buy private houses and rent but there are other alternatives available. You can read about housing policies in the EU at the following link. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/workingpapers/soci/w14/text2_en.htm

          • Kraus

            Stockholm rent-control situation is a disaster. There are tens of thousands of people attempting to get an apartment in that City — with a 20 to 30 year wait list.

            http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/19/why-stockholm-housing-rules-rent-control-flat

        • MSS SF

          Hi –

          Over the last 5 years, Existing Home German house prices has gone up 30% (through Feb 2016) and all homes by 20% (through Sep 2015 via Dallas Fed) compared to 19% in the US (through Dec 2015 via FHFA).

          In real (inflation adjusted) terms, German house prices have grown at nearly 25% from Q1 2011 to Sep 2015 – faster than any other major developed country (US is only 15% in real terms).

          Rents in Berlin went up over 9% in 2013 to 2014 alone and 63% from 2005 to 2015. This was with 2 massive downturns (we only had one). Europe and Germany (less so) also have deflation risk/crisis thats been looming for years as well.
          What Berlin (not all of Germany) has is what is called a rent ‘cap’ where prices cant be raised by more than 10% of the local average. That means rents can still go up by 10%.

          This is not to say we are better etc. Germany does a number of good things for housing but the comparisons are not accurate.

          The link you provide is a really good one and shows you the problems (and reasons for said problems) that Germany faces:

          “The housing situation in eastern Germany is very different from that in the west and, not surprisingly, reflects the legacy of nearly half a century of communist rule. The central emphasis of federal housing policy for eastern Germany since unification has been to revitalise the housing market, mainly by means of privatising and marketing housing provision and integrating it into the legal framework which exists in the west.”

  • zendoggie

    “…when any urban economist with any sense knows that rent control is one of the most powerful displacement.”

    Nice qualifier “with any sense.” a.k.a, “ones who I agree with.”

  • chasmader

    Except that he left Princeton and is now teaching for free at CUNY

  • MSS SF

    So essentially for Tim, Krugman is right on all things he agrees with but wrong on the things he disagrees with. The level of cognitive dissonance is just amazing.

  • Y.

    One nice thing about science, including economics, is that you can look at the evidence and decide for yourself whether it’s convincing or not, regardless of who the author is. This article of Krugman’s, like the rent control one, is devoid of data. He sets up some strawmen, knocks them down, quotes one study (the White House one, which has its own flaws), and concludes, “So there’s a very strong case for allowing more building in our big cities.” Krugman or not, Nobel or not, if even the great Krugman has nothing more to offer, one might think that there isn’t any such convincing argument, for New York anyway.

    • MSS SF

      You must see the irony of talking about lack of supporting evidence considering Tim Redmond who has never provided any substantial data or links to any peer reviewed research that support his ideology?

      Dont you think the burden of proof is on Tim to refute why he is write and White House, any number of work from universities like Berkeley, noble laurates like Krugman etc.are wrong?

      Maybe all of these are wrng. I am open minded to counter evidence.

      What data and research (peer reviewed) can you point to support your view and debunk all of the above? I am curious.

      • Y.

        First of all, all I am saying is that Krugman is presenting pretty much no data, only his opinion. If he can’t find better data, that’s his problem. If you think Tim is wrong about this or that, that has nothing to do with Krugman.
        As for data, big cities all over the world are suffering from the same problem, whether they build a lot or not. Either there’s a conspiracy of NIMBYs and regulators, or the supply-side model isn’t working.

        • MSS SF

          He is presenting data such as the White House link- you just thinks its flawed. Can you point to counter research that tells us how its flawed?.

          Tim is saying he Krugman wrong and providing literally zero data. But you dont have an issue with that since you agree with him?

          You are also questioning Krugmans conclusions similar to your questioning of the Berkeley in our previous interaction but you yourself dont provide any data or research to support your own theorizing.
          Can you link to any article that says the reasons for high prices is a ‘NIMBY and regulator conspiracy’? And if you think Paul freaking Krugman believes in supply side models I dont know what to even say.

          Again, as someone who is asking us to look at evidence, where is your evidence? Where is your research to support your (or Tims theories)?

          I am not trying to antagonistic – I just find it odd that you decry lack of evidence and find flaws in what ever is provided on one hand but dont do the same when the theory resonates with you and also fail to provide any evidence yourself.

          • Y.

            I am afraid I am repeating myself.

            Redmond’s column is not, in general, about Krugman or about housing prices. It’s about the economic right wing of the Democratic party. Krugman’s rhetoric in this column, regardless of its merits, is standard Republican: the Capitalistic free market is your friend, government regulations are standing in its way and therefore are the cause of high prices and other ailments of the middle and lower classes.

            I was talking about Krugman’s arguments themselves, which are a different issue. If a professor of economics has 1000 words to convince me of an issue, I damn well expect him to do better than to quote a tertiary source which quotes secondary sources. “Do the research” is not a convincing way to put your argument forward. Let him survey the primary literaturte, extract the most convincing one or two primary arguments, and use his 1000 words to explain them in plain terms, rather than use that space for handwaving.

          • MSS SF

            Here is a small list of work and papers on the topic.
            I cant find one single peer reviewed work that shows that more restrictions lowers prices. You hold that view based on ideas that resonate with your world view. But there is no scholarly work of real world evidence to your views. In all of our discussions you have never presented anything that is quantifiable other than personal theories.

            But you reject all (!) of the below sources. Are none of them credible? Does it not matter that the overwhelming body of work shows the same results?

            1. Quigleys research at Berkley
            http://www.jstor.org/stable/4132841

            2. White House summary of multiple research works (links in article)

            3. Krugman summary of the topic

            NBER and the NY federal reserve:
            https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/epr/03v09n2/0306glae.pdf

            Journal of Urban Economics:
            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094119006000908

            Regional Science and Urban economics and Colombia University:
            https://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/mygsb/faculty/research/pubfiles/519/519.pdf

          • Y.

            Before I get into this, I’ll remind you, for the fourth time, that I was talking about Krugman’s poor and unconvincing argumentation, not about whether he’s right or wrong. You are changing the subject and not admitting it, but I’ll bite:

            1. You say, “I can’t find one single peer reviewed work that shows that more restrictions lowers prices. You hold that view based on ideas that resonate with your world view.” I did not say that! I do think that more restrictions are not raising housing prices, in San Francisco and probably elsewhere. I also think, very strongly, that the main cause for high housing prices in the Bay Area is the high demand for housing by people who earn much higher income than the median. In other words, what has been called income inequality, or “the hollowing of the middle class”.

            2. The papers you’re quoting are Quigley and Raphael (2005), Furman (2015), Glaeser and Gyourko (2003), Ihlanfeldt (2005), and Mayer and Somerville (2006). Q&R find a correlation between regulations and housing prices in California, but give no evidence for a mechanism linking them. M&S say nothing about housing prices, only that regulations, specifically permitting delays and size restrictions, correlate with less housing starts. G&G say that zoning regulations correlate with more expensive housing. They do not attempt to prove a causal connection. Ihlanfeldt compares regulations and pricing for 100 Florida communities, urban and suburban. He finds that more zoning will increase the prices of newly built housing, where the additional cost of building do to regulations is passed to the buyer. He does not imply that prices increase because of supply restriction. He’s the only one who makes concrete predictions, and in his worst case regulations seem to increase housing prices by 20%. Furman, a survey talk, quotes a total of three publications to argue that housing restrictions raise rents (footnote 6): Sundig and Swoboda (2004), Malpezzi (1996), and Luger and Temkin (2000). Of these, S&S study the prices of new suburban homes in Southern California in the 1990s and early 2000s. They find up to 20% increase in new housing prices/sq.ft. in older, more built-up areas, less so elsewhere. They suggest, through modeling but not through actual data, that more construction in these areas would reduce these prices. In other words, they show that denser towns are up to 20% more expensive than the suburbs.

            Malpezzi finds that housing prices across many cities are strongly correlated with income and population levels, less so with state-level regulations, with no residual correlation with local-level regulations. This is the opposite of the argument

            L&T is a book. I haven’t seen it.

            Furman’s graph 3 (not quoting a source) shows a weak negative correlation between regulation and affrdability. I note that the two most regulated places on the graph, Philadelphia and Providence, are relatively affordable. The two least regulated places on the graph, St. Louis and Kansas City, are slow-growing and partly depressed.

            Krugman, as I have said, mentions Furman and provides no other evidence.

            None of these papers demonstrates that regulations increase prices by reducing supply, as some say happens in SF. They show correlations between regulations and housing prices among varied cities, but don’t demonstrate that more building in a place like SF would make it affordable. None of these address the effect of increased demand by the rich. None of them can explain why an SF 2br rented for $1000 in 1990, when the vacancy rate was 3.7%; $2100 in 2000, when the vacancy rate was 2.5%; $2400 in 2008, when the vacancy rate was 5.4%; and $4400 in 2015, with the vacancy rate at about 4%. What does explain these numbers, intuitively, is that there are more and more people coming to SF who can pay these higher rents.

            These papers do show that housing is cheaper in depressed cities (which also need not and cannot restrict building), and in new suburbs (which these days are built in the less desirable and cheaper periphery, and house poorer people). That in itself seems to adequately explains the correlations in the studies of Quigley and Gyourko.

            All of these papers are old. None of them addresses the current epidemic of unaffordability.

            3. If you want more papers, see Davidoff, Supply constraints are not valid instrumental variables for home prices because they are correlated with many demand factors, and Aura and Davidoff, Supply constraints and housing prices. Both of these papers argue that demand is the main force behind high prices. Since steep demand happens to exist in the same places that are more regulated, the correlation between regulations and housing prices is mostly an artifact. From Aura and Davidoff: “We show reasonable conditions under which, even if every building in Manhattan were 100 stories tall, prices would fall by less than 15 percent.”

    • wcw

      Furman’s paper is an expanded talk, a mix of oratory and lit review. It features thirty references. Describing it as ‘one study’ is imprecise and misleading, but then so is describing Krugman’s column as if its synthesis of the literature relied on Furman.

      • Y.

        Then let Krugman go into some of the details, instead of quoting one secondary reference without details. I’m not going to do his homework for him. As an academic he should know better. His blog is still 90% pure opinion. I can get more opinions, cheap, in the comments here.

        • wcw

          Krugman writes an op-ed column. ‘Opinion’ is the job description.

    • MKR

      Economics is a theoretical science. You can’t prove anything in economics . That’s why they pontificate all day long

  • njudah

    I find it funny that people somehow think an old, socialist hobbit from Vermont can somehow get elected President of the entire USA, when SF can’t even elect a “progressive” mayor, even when the incumbent is so unpopular he barely wins against a pack of nobodies like Big Eddie did last year. I mean, come on….

  • Pvt. Hudson

    “40, 50, 60 percent of the units for people of more modest means”

    This is would not be feasible in most projects without a subsidy or a ton of variances/planning exceptions.

  • sebra leaves

    Considering the news out of Silicon Valley indicates we are nearing the end of the economic boom, and layoffs are having a downward effect on already-low wages, it is hard to believe we need to continue in a building frenzy, regardless of what Krugman, Chiu, and DeBlasio have to say. If we really want to deal with the homeless problem, we need a count of the empty housing units so we can at least find out just how many units we are short, and get a grip on what may be causing the shortage. Without this information we are guessing at how many of what we need more of.

    • RR592

      What would counting the empty housing units achieve? After all, we cannot force a property owner to have people live in his unit if he doesn’t want that, unless you envisage draconian infringements of individual rights

      And how would you even set about counting the vacant units? Is that unit across the street really empty or is the occupant just away a lot?

      The best you could probably do is offer a discount on property tax for owners who can prove that their units are occupied.

      • Foginacan

        What are California’s warehousing laws like? If you take apartments off the market, you risk having them tagged as abandoned zoning.
        It’s really not something to consider unless you have well known buildings half or entirely empty. It’s not something you see in a new development market, it happens with older building and neglected areas.

        • RR592

          Yes, it is abandoned buildings in bad ‘hoods that get tagged, like quite a few in east and west Oakland. Nobody is going to tag a new million dollar condo just because it appears that the owner isn’t around much.

          I don’t think much can be done if I buy a home and then don’t use it. That is my right as the property owner, to use it or not at my discretion.

          • Foginacan

            Of course you’re right about that. I think they do have the power to cite a property owner, but developers would just budget in those fines and expect them, just the way they do with any other fines.

            I also agree, with single family homes. Though there are loons out there who have been talking about legislation against leaving properties dormant.

    • MSS SF

      I get that you have an intuitive view of what should be done etc. Everyone does including me. But we have to some underlying basis that you can point to which can help get people who may not agree on board. You reject mainstream economists, the best liberal economists (krugman), liberal politicians (Chiu) progressive politicians (deblasio). Ok fine. Which are the experts that you think we should listen to? What data suggests your ideas will work? Where have they worked? Can they applied here?

  • Pvt. Hudson

    “If we really want to deal with the homeless problem, we need a count of the empty housing units so we can at least find out just how many units we are short, and get a grip on what may be causing the shortage. Without this information we are guessing at how many of what we need more of.”

    Are you suggesting that it is possible for the city to permanently house the 6-7k homeless in unoccupied private buildings?

  • Alfiejr

    the first question that comes to mind is, naturally enough, where does Krugman live? what kind of neighborhood? how much does he earn a year? what are the impacts of his proposals on him personally? i really don’t know.

    • MKR

      Krugman received a Nobel prize in economics for his work on international trade and currency prices. He is a professor at Princeton. He is a very smart man and well respected but no one is 100 percent right about anything in the field of economics.

      • MSS SF

        Hi MKR – Do you disagree with Krugman on this topic? if so why and whats the basis of your disagreement other than ideology? Sincerely would like to know.

        • MKR

          I doubt you can make an absolute rule that rent control is better all of the time or worse all of the time. I think it is generally a good idea to have some rent controls such that prices keep up with the rate of inflation, preventing displacement and social instability. But if you look at NYC for example there are many buildings in which some units are reserved for below market rate or rent control and the overwhelming demand means that there could be one apartment for ten thousand applicants. You might need some national attention also to give businesses incentives to build and develop in poor areas of the country , otherwise we will always have a highly stratified society.

          • MSS SF

            This is a view. What is the basis for it? Data? Evidence?

  • Greg

    The Phil Ochs song “Love Me I’m a Liberal” still rings true today.

  • sojourner_7

    The question we might now consider about progressives, progressing towards what? Being identified with the progressive movement used to imply something positive. Things have changed, and the meaning now is clouded, and there are certainly negatives involved.

  • Paul Klees