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Darrell Berkheimer: NIMBYs aiding slide into recession

Darrell Berkheimer | Columnist

We’re headed into a recession, and the NIMBYs have become one of the causes.

Why, you ask?

The reason is pretty simple, according to Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders. Howard told Bloomberg News that a decline in home building and buying has led to every recession since the end of World War II.

And NIMBYs across the nation – especially in California – have been limiting the supply of housing with their Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) battles against higher density dwellings.

We need higher density housing – because many members of our two youngest adult generations can’t afford to buy a home. They can’t save enough cash because of high rent, inflation, student debt, low wages and climbing interest rates enacted to control inflation.

Economists and our Federal Reserve Board say higher interest rates mean higher borrowing costs, causing people to start spending less. Then the demand for goods and services are expected to drop – eventually causing the inflation rate and housing prices to fall.

The key word is “eventually,” because it’s a slow process – frequently resulting in a recession. And it can work even slower if the supply of goods and services remain low.

Home Builders CEO Howard noted that’s exactly the situation in today’s housing market. Demand is there, but the number of eligible buyers is too low. And costs are high with building materials in short supply while construction wages are rising.

It all points to the need for smaller homes on smaller lots, and lots that accommodate duplexes and accessory dwelling units.

Howard sees no easy solution, but indicated building fees and prohibitive planning regulations have become a housing bottleneck. He remarked that lowering those barriers would play a part in stabilizing homebuilding and help correct the course of our national economy.

But just as regulators across the nation are trying to force higher densities, the NIMBYs are battling their every move.

California’s legislators moved to reduce such regulations by passing Senate Bill 9, dubbed the Duplex Housing Bill. It was enacted to force cities and counties to split or otherwise alter their single-family zoning to provide for more dwellings on less acreage. SB 9 immediately drew fierce resistance from more than 240 cities, according to CalMatters news service.

And Nevada City has become one of them with its expanded Historic Neighborhoods District Initiative, which will appear on the November ballot. The historic district is one of many loopholes California cities are using to circumvent SB 9.

Letters have been sent to numerous cities notifying them that Attorney General Rob Bona’s office will be enforcing SB 9, with lawsuits if necessary. And some cities already have recanted loophole restrictions they were planning.

Historically, families raised as many as eight children in homes of less than 1,200 square feet. Families today have fewer children – rarely three or more and usually only one or two.

And most folks have been reading the stories about today’s young adults living with their parents longer, waiting longer to marry, and having fewer children later. As a result, the U.S. birth rate has dropped to 1.7 per family when a rate of 2.1 is necessary to maintain a stable population. (That’s why some sources have been saying we need those immigrants coming to our borders.)

I grew up in a duplex, referred to as a semi-detached home. My parents owned one side and an older, childless couple, owned the other. They were great neighbors.

I also rented one of the two middle homes in a fourplex row built for families of servicemen after World War II. It was a two-bedroom, one-bath home. The owner was one of the original occupants who bought the other three units.

In addition, the first home I owned was half of a duplex. And years later, in a different town, I bought both sides of a duplex from the original owners. I lived in one side and rented out the other.

I’ve also owned four single homes in three states.

I have seen, from experience, that a neighborhood of duplexes does not lower the value of single-family homes. What really lowers the value of homes everywhere is maintenance failures and lack of pride in appearance – whether it be single-family homes, multiplexes or multi-story apartment buildings.

Smaller homes on smaller lots must be considered a necessity – mainly for affordability and to assist in reducing homelessness, but also to halt ecological damage through continuing encroachment into wildland habitat.

We must make better use of the land within our communities’ boundaries.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has nine books available through Amazon. His two Essays books include nearly 120 columns published by The Union, plus a variety of travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com


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