Based in Las Vegas, Douglas french writes about the  economy and book reviews. 

Neighborhood Groups Defend Their Own Walls

Neighborhood Groups Defend Their Own Walls

In a stunning bit of news from the New York Times, “economists say, the high cost of all housing is first and foremost the result of a failure to build.”   Recognizing the state has an affordable housing shortage, a California lawmaker has proposed, “extraordinary legislation to, in effect, crack down on communities that have, in their view, systematically delayed or derailed housing construction proposals, often at the behest of local neighborhood groups.”

State Senator Scott Wiener is one lawmaker that understands less supply and increasing demand means higher prices.  And the only reason builders don’t build is local restrictions politicians put in place because neighborhood anti-growth groups don’t want any more neighbors and they certainly don’t want neighbors who can only afford low-priced housing.  

Adam Nagourney and Conor Dougherty report,

The bill sponsored by Mr. Wiener, one of 130 housing measures that have been introduced this year, would restrict one of the biggest development tools that communities wield: the ability to use zoning, environmental and procedural laws to thwart projects they deem out of character with their neighborhood.”  

The Golden State, despite high taxes and an oppressive government, has a rockin’ economy again and people are living in vans parked in out-of-the-way places, while Silicon Valley has “lines of parked recreational vehicles are a daily testimony to the challenges of finding an affordable place to call home.”

As one might expect, the mayor Santa Barbara, or her constituents, don’t care about affordable housing, the proposed legislation says Helene Schneider, “It’s giving developers a great gift and not giving residents and voters a chance to cast their opinions about what happens in their own neighborhood.”

That’s always the argument, allow a builder to try and satisfy demand and it’s considered “a great gift.”  Development entails risk. How soon people forget the video of homes in a new subdivision in Victorville, California being bulldozed.  

Since when did property rights extend beyond the borders of one’s property to the entire neighborhood?  

“California is a beautiful place with great weather and a terrific economy,”  Issi Romem, the chief economist with BuildZoom, a San Francisco company that helps homeowners find contractors told the Times. “To accommodate all those people you need to build a lot, and the state’s big metro areas haven’t since the early ’70s. To catch up, cities would need to build housing in a way that they haven’t in two generations.”

Brian Hanlon, policy director of the San Francisco Yimby Party, a housing advocacy group, told Nagourney and Conor Dougherty, “Cities have proven time and time again that they will not follow their own zoning rules,”“It’s time for the state to strengthen their own laws so that advocates can hold cities accountable.”

This “we don’t need no stinking neighbors” attitude is not confined to California.  There is a little city near Las Vegas where a noisy group of residents wants to stop all growth, and voted for no-growth candidates in the last election.

A couple years ago in college town, Auburn, Alabama I reported on a town council meeting. One woman, complaining about new apartment projects, said, “students are just nomads” and don’t care about the city the way a homeowner does.

She continued on, saying that new apartments create vacant older units whose owners must lower rents and attract low-income tenants. “No more poor people in Auburn,” she concluded, not embarrassed by the collective groan in the room or Councilman Tommy Dawson’s quick rebuke. She clarified she was talking about poor people from Mexico.

Of course this is what the Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) movement is all about: class and race.  

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