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Guest opinion: The housing 'crisis'

New ideas needed to address shortage of homes

As an aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, when it was decided to bail out investors and let middle- and lower-income people fend for themselves, millions of single-family homes went into foreclosure. These homes went into the coffers of well-capitalized partnerships and syndicates. They were the ones with the money to pick up bargains. Today, rental housing is owned mainly by large partnerships and corporations far removed from renters.

Many RV and manufactured home parks were also gobbled up, and now mom-and-pop RV places are uncommon. Large New York Stock Exchange corporations own RV parks.

Corporations know how to maximize profits — raise rents, postpone repairs, etc. One day late with the rent and an eviction notice is immediately issued. Then you are faced with late payment and other fees and, if you can't pay, eventual homelessness. Residents at the lower end of the economic scale suffer the most. Renters are captive victims.

As we crawled out of the financial crisis, there was not enough foresight to ramp up housing construction. Governments and developers did not build enough inventories to keep up with population, thereby creating a shortage. Was this deliberate?

In addition to a housing deficit, industries in the area became successful beyond our wildest dreams — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, to name a few. Their well-paid technocrats can afford to pay exorbitant rent.

This created the housing "crisis." We don't really have a crisis. London, Dresden, Warsaw and other cities had a crisis after World War II. What we have is a lack of will to solve problems associated with providing a roof over us.

Alphabet and Stanford University have offered some contributions, and Santa Clara (County) issued housing bonds. Alphabet and Stanford will target their contributions toward benefiting their employees, and county bonds are minimal. That's not going to help the general population.

We need leaders that can think out of the box. For example, London after WWII decided on factory-built (mass produced) houses. They built hundreds of thousands. By the end of the program, a house could be erected in 40 hours.

We have factories that produce homes — attractive, modern, earthquake-resistant, energy-efficient, durable modular homes. Google offered land — why not have a few thousand manufactured homes installed there? In a year or less we could make a dent in the housing shortage. Manufactured homes are a long way from the last century's "boxes." I would be proud to live in one of them.

Another example: Minneapolis decided to eliminate single-family zoning, which creates space for second homes to reduce the shortage.

There must be other cities here and abroad with new ideas. We have enough brains in this area to come up with solutions. This doesn't address the homeless problem — that's another more intractable, real crisis, bound to get worse.

The present system isn't working. Do something. Now.

Robert Pollak lives on West Middlefield Road in Mountain View.

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Bored M
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 16, 2019 at 10:08 am

What's the point of this opinion? Anyone who says "...things aren't working" should have to qualify that with "for me" or "for some folks I know". There are plenty of people who are making life work and finding ways to thrive. That's what has made this area so successful. The Voice should do a series on how people are achieving and thriving.


13 people like this
Posted by Jake O.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jul 16, 2019 at 2:40 pm

Everyone is thinking that there's a housing shortage, but perhaps we have a population issue?


13 people like this
Posted by Bla, bla, bla
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 16, 2019 at 4:21 pm

What about all the cheap, imported tech labor? No mention of that? And for those of us who own homes, are we responsible for the mess the corporations you claim are behind all this? Why is it we have to put up with all the RVs? Because our corporate masters are making us? Why don't our politicians just enforce the laws? The created new rent control laws that are apparently being enforced. Why then can't they enforce long-term parking laws?


26 people like this
Posted by Do your homework
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2019 at 6:21 pm

@Robert Pollack, where on earth do you get this information? It’s seems you pulled it right off the top of your head:

1. Most rental homes and condos in this area that were foreclosed on or sold short were not purchased by large corporations and partnerships. They were purchased by individuals. A short scan through public records of property ownership would tell you this.

2. Likewise, the local RV parks are not owned by large NY Stock Exchange corporations. They’re owned by local entities.

Building a couple thousand cheap, crappy houses on google land will add at least 4,000 cars to our small area and significantly increase the already over congested streets. Eliminating single family zoning would create an incredibly unsightly hodgepodge of neighborhoods that would ruin the character of our cities (it would ruin the character of any city for that matter. Zoning ordinances are in place for a reason.

We didn’t have a housing shortage until our local city councils allowed the over expansion of the tech companies. The answer is not to build more housing but to stop (or reverse) the expansion. We’re already overcrowded beyond what our infrastructure can support. The more housing we build, the more traffic we create, the more miserably overcrowded we become. If the techies can’t find housing maybe they’ll move somewhere else!


Like this comment
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2019 at 8:36 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

In response to Do Your Homework you said:

“@Robert Pollack, where on earth do you get this information? It’s seems you pulled it right off the top of your head:

1. Most rental homes and condos in this area that were foreclosed on or sold short were not purchased by large corporations and partnerships. They were purchased by individuals. A short scan through public records of property ownership would tell you this. “

Where is your proof of this claim, you propose that you know better, but you do not provide a valid resource to prove your point. Also there are many “fronts” or “fictitious entities” that are on the record regarding these purchases. Just looking at the public records in fact can be very deceiving, what if it is that the “large corporations and partnerships” provided the funding for the purchases under others names. That is a VERY common business practice in order to gain access to tax credits and incentives in business. Please provide some public records to prove your claim? You said:

“2. Likewise, the local RV parks are not owned by large NY Stock Exchange corporations. They’re owned by local entities. “

What local RV parks? Most people with “RVs” are parking on the street. You are conflating a “Mobile Home” and an “RV”. How many “RV” parking lots are there in Mountain View? There can’t be many if all the RVs are parking on the streets. You said:

“Building a couple thousand cheap, crappy houses on google land will add at least 4,000 cars to our small area and significantly increase the already over congested streets. Eliminating single family zoning would create an incredibly unsightly hodgepodge of neighborhoods that would ruin the character of our cities (it would ruin the character of any city for that matter. Zoning ordinances are in place for a reason. “

Unfortunately, it may become state laws to restrict single family homes, and in fact force cities to replace them with multifamily housing. SB50 is one that would result in this kind of land use reform. Oregon is going in this direction seen here (Web Link). Again, my proposal to start with is this:

Here is the REAL SOLUTION of affordable housing:

The State must create a database of ALL existing residential units that ACTUALLY EXIST! THIS IS MANDATORY TO ALL PROPERTIES!

Then they must create a database of all OWNED residential units that ACTUALLY EXIST! THIS IS MANDATORY TO ALL PROPERTIES!

Then they must create a database that accounts for all USED residential units that ACTUALLY EXIST! THIS IS MANDATORY TO ALL PROPERTIES!

Then they must create a database consisting of all UNUSED residential units that ACTUALLY EXIST! THIS IS MANDATORY TO ALL PROPERTIES!

OF COURSE the Housing industry will oppose this. Why?

This will provide the public the ACTUAL manipulated SHORTAGE of HOUSING in California.

Also there can be taxation designed so that for those properties NOT USED to be levied to fund public housing projects. This will be because the housing crisis allows for this extreme action as long as these units are not listed or used because it is against the state anti-trust and price manipulation laws.

It can be avoided if the properties are made available to the market.

But I will not be surprised that there is as much as an additional 10-15% of units just being withheld from USE because it makes other properties more valuable. And given Proposition 13, they pay pitiful property taxes on units that just sit and decompose due to intentional neglect. No upkeep means that the taxes are the only cost. You said:

"We didn’t have a housing shortage until our local city councils allowed the over expansion of the tech companies. The answer is not to build more housing but to stop (or reverse) the expansion. We’re already overcrowded beyond what our infrastructure can support. The more housing we build, the more traffic we create, the more miserably overcrowded we become. If the techies can’t find housing maybe they’ll move somewhere else!"

YES the area needs a SERIOUS REDESIGN to finally have the infrastructure to deal with our situation. YES, Cities appear to not have the intelligence to deal with the problem. YES we NEED highly skilled civil engineering to fix the problems you describe. But if you drive out these workers, the economy in the region will suffer incredibly. The resulting drop in property values will be the same level as was the great recession on 2007, and it will never return.


Like this comment
Posted by Former Minneapolitan
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 17, 2019 at 8:08 am

Thanks for mentioning Minneapolis. Glad to see the Midwest mentioned in a positive light.


2 people like this
Posted by MVmom
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 17, 2019 at 10:52 am

One thing that might help is if the City of Mountain View wouldn't make things so difficult for people trying to build ADU's (additional dwelling units). These could help with providing more places to live with landowners paying the expenses, no cost to the city. According to someone we know every time they resubmitted their plans, the plan checkers(s) would add multiple items each time and it took over 1 year to get things approved. They said it seemed they were adding items on a whim, not having anything to do with codes nor the city standards, and different plan checkers were asking for different things arbitrarily. Several professionals in the building industry that we have spoken to have said the City of Mountain View is notorious for being difficult to get building permits and approval on things...unless you are building huge condos/apartments it appears. Just my opinion, so no back lash please.


1 person likes this
Posted by not the housing crisis solution
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2019 at 11:55 am

Nobody is going to build an ADU for the sole purpose of allowing a homeless person to live in their back yard. No backlash. Maybe there could be a "quick" permitting process when owner is required to allow a homeless person/s to live in their yard for a period of 20 years before it reverts back to a market rate ADU.


10 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jul 17, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Most of the opinions offered are typical far left rhetoric. Large Corporations exploit us and force us to do things. How silly. Go to an RHC meeting. And you will not see any large corporation landlords in attendance. Only mom and pop landlords that suffer through rent control.

As noted above, there are a lot of residents doing very well, which is why they can afford to live here. S


2 people like this
Posted by MVres
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 18, 2019 at 8:45 am

MVres is a registered user.

Responding to not the housing crisis solution, I thought the concept was to create more affordable housing for people, not just house a homeless person in your backyard.


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