In the ongoing saga that is the Bay Area housing market, it is often hard to find thoughtful, rational, well-reported coverage of the issue. A great piece by Conor Dougherty in the NYT today that boils it down well, profiling the leader of the Bay Area Renters Federation (BARF):
This might make it tempting to dismiss Ms. Trauss as just another colorful activist in a place where activism is a local sport. But the anger she has tapped into is real, reflecting a generational break that pits cranky homeowners and the San Francisco political establishment against a cast of newcomers who are demanding the region make room for them, too.
Though the conflict is usually sensationalized into "techies" vs. "natives" - it really is more about newcomers vs. existing homeowners. Existing homeowners bellow about not wanting to see the city change and that supply/demand economics don't apply to this special situation, all the while ignoring the fact that the supply/demand economics very much benefit those that have held housing assets for decades.
Layer on top of this climate SF's bizarre pseudo-direct-democracy, which causes most local politicians ("supervisors") to kowtow to every small, noisy faction of constituents, and you wind up with this inanity:
Much of San Francisco’s progressive establishment feels the city is building too much market-rate housing. Some go so far as to argue that the appetite for real estate here is so high that supply-and-demand rules don’t really apply.
To get prices down, “You’d have to, like, build another city on top of the city,” said David Campos, a progressive-wing member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He thinks the city should focus the vast majority of future development on affordable housing limited to people making well below the city’s median income.
This thinking is at odds with a February report on housing prices from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, which said underdevelopment was the primary cause of the high prices that afflicted cities throughout the coastal part of the state, especially in the Bay Area.
“Many housing programs — vouchers, rent control and inclusionary housing — attempt to make housing more affordable without increasing the overall supply,” the report said. “This approach does very little to address the underlying cause of California’s high housing costs: a housing shortage.”
(Sidebar: Every time I hear David Campos quoted, I imagine the voice of King Candy from Wreck-It-Ralph.)
I'm glad to see that my generation is starting to engage on civic issues like this one. For more background, I also highly recommend Kim-Mai Cutler's housing opus in TechCrunch.