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The generational feud behind the housing crisis

Original post made on Jan 20, 2019

In his new book, author Randy Shaw makes the case that the Bay Area's housing crisis is primarily a story of boomers refusing to provide opportunities for millennials.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, January 20, 2019, 9:17 AM

Comments (4)

Posted by Nihilist
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 20, 2019 at 10:57 am

What a pile of self righteous bull manure.

Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 20, 2019 at 11:24 am

Common sense is a registered user.

Given that the "generational" housing-access disparity has been a well-established cliché hereabouts for several years already, inevitably someone would codify it in a book like this. I just wish the author's goal had been to truly, searchingly, examine the familiar notions and assumptions, not just reiterate and rationalize them. In fact, some of the most thoughtful critiques I've seen of the "generational" complaint itself have recently come from -- wait for it -- clear-eyed millennials, not content to complacently accept and repeat appealing-looking clichés. But I guess this book's evident cliché-mongering tone was inevitable. Writing by a self-appointed housing activist, who already writes tendentiously on these issues in his blog (itself, avowedly created from impatience with the SF Chronicle not spinning things as Shaw would like) holds little promise of objectivity.

Just a few examples of typical unexamined notions in the generational-housing-grievance paradigm:

- Spin language, about "cities pricing out" residents, of developers or older residents orchestrating a situation, all deliberately ignores a core element of the reality (as a really comprehensive, responsible analysis could never do): Those housing costs don't rise in parts of the US lacking the intense population inflow, which reflects job creation. I don't know if Shaw looked seriously (it seems unlikely, from the interview) at groups like "Palo Alto Forward" that complain about housing costs, yet in the next breath advocate more job growth. His interview comments on "rent spiking's" causes ignore the demand factor utterly.

- "Millennials" mostly lack the historical perspective to know that Bay-Area cities with job growth were already becoming shockingly unaffordable 40 years ago. In the 1970s, after silicon valley (in the original sense that prompted the 1971 term) really took off, towns like Palo Alto pulled ahead of prevailing Bay-Area pricing. What Shaw says he finally noticed in Oakland just a year or two ago was a diffusion outward of a very longstanding trend.

- The "YIMBY" argument is, like "affordable" Bay-Area housing, a feel-good euphemism to hide a less-palatable reality. (In a high-demand market, housing's unaffordability is inherent because people willingly pay high. You can't "build affordable housing," at most you can subsidize the high-market-value housing from some finite funding source that inevitably limits the beneficiaries to a token few.) Many of the people who like to style themselves "YIMBY" actually advocate "YISEBY" housing construction (Yes In Someone ELSE's Back Yard, not my own).

Posted by @Voice
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2019 at 5:02 pm

What's the matter Voice?

Why do you silence free speech on a topic that you posted?

Are you afraid of LOL? Who furiously hits report objectionable content all the time.

If the debate is thruthful, facetual, respectful, and on topic, why the censorship?

Or you a news site? or a tabloid rag?

Where in the rules of this forum does it state that any topic that references "Illegal's" that that is prohibited.

Posted by ResidentSince1982
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2019 at 2:02 pm

ResidentSince1982 is a registered user.

Blame is not as productive in this quandary as would be a serious effort to identify potential solutions. The cause and the effect merit further analysis. I would say that the blame for a shortage of rentals is most appropriately tied to the increase in the proportion of the residents who are seeking rentals versus ownership housing. Provide more housing that can be purchased, and the clog in the flow will be most significantly reduced. For example, the author certainly can't blame the shortage of buyers purchasing condos in these established neighborhoods on animosity of the current residents to renters.

The financial market is the most to blame for the shortage of homeownership and the increase in prices of all types of housing, whether owned or rented. First we have the dot com boom of the 90's. That was driven by the financial markets. It had the effect of beginning the run up on housing prices. Then we had the crash and the big drop in jobs in Silicon Valley. That should have helped but during that recovery the financial market came up with these derivative investment vehicles that increased the demand for housing and both ran up prices further and led to the mortgage crisis and the financial disaster of 2008. After that the extremely low interest rates stimulated the economy but they also caused still more increase on housing prices. That has lasted for 10 years. Besides that we have the George W. Bush tax cuts and the increase in the cost of higher education and educational loan debt. Part of this was undue subsidy to non-productive trade schools that cost the student far more than they were worth. The net result is a generation unable to afford to buy housing or even to live well. At the same time, the government greatly cut the subsidy to encourage affordable housing just as it was needed more than ever. The result is an increase in housing prices, whether owned or rented.

The simple minded idea that existing home owners fought of rental housing that otherwise would have happened is just wrong. What really happened was more complex.

The good news is that governments are finally starting to subsidize housing using state versus federal funds. However it gets done, it will help. The federal subsidies should be increased back to what they once were as well. Although this directly helps low income, the middle income will benefit as well, and it will reduce increases in house values which will makes some more able to buy a home.

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