The housing 'crisis' | July 5, 2019 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - July 5, 2019

The housing 'crisis'

New ideas needed to address shortage of homes

by Robert Pollak

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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