Darrell Berkheimer: Reversal needed to fix housing crisis
Let’s call a spade a spade. We have people in our twin cities who must share responsibility for the housing shortage and the growing numbers of homeless folks.
They are members of the “Nimbys.” And the Nimbys are winning — while all of California is losing.
They’re winning in Grass Valley, Nevada City, and nearly every one of California’s other cities. And it’s one of the reasons why more people are moving out of the state than those moving in, according to census data cited by NBC’s Bay Area station.
The “not-in-my-back-yard” folks continue to fight against high density housing almost everywhere in the state. And the results are a shortage of millions of dwelling units, surging homelessness, exorbitant housing costs, and suburbia sprawl into nearby wooded areas, which create ever-increasing wildfire dangers.
We need not look any farther than western Nevada County to see examples of each of the problems — all of which are simply getting worse.
In addition, many of the state’s communities have become too expensive for California’s young families and new professionals to return to where they grew up.
Only high-density housing and increased mass transit services can alleviate the mushrooming issues.
I have been spending a lot of time reading the stories involved, but the headlines tell much of the situation. Here are what the headlines are saying:
• California is becoming unlivable
• Middle- and low-income people leaving California
• For seventh year in a row, more people left California than moved in (new census data)
• Why Texans don’t want any more Californians
• California, mired in a housing crisis, rejects effort to fix it
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott explained the attitude in his state when he said: “Remember those high taxes, burdensome regulations, and socialist agenda advanced in California? We don’t believe in that.”
In Boise, Idaho, mayoral candidate Wayne Richey proposed building a $26 billion wall to keep out people moving from the Golden State.
Other states citing anxieties about the influx of Californians include Arizona, Nevada and Washington.
And a recent poll by UC Berkeley reported 52% of registered voters said they’ve considered leaving the state — and the high cost of housing leads the list of reasons.
• 71% cite the high cost of housing
• 58% cite high taxes
• 46% cite political culture — particularly conservatives who say the state’s policies are not in line with their own.
I think two of the stories do the best job of explaining the situation. The one details the reasons why California has become unlivable, which also includes wildfire dangers and high home insurance.
The other tells how the state’s lawmakers and elected officials — in bowing to decades of pressures by the Nimbys — have rejected the measures needed to fix the situation.
Both liberal and conservative economists agree that the best way to correct the situation is to discourage single-family zoning that excludes high-rise buildings and other high-density structures such as four-plexes, eight-plexes, townhouses and condos.
The single-family type housing developments now under construction here at Grass Valley will do nothing to help solve the situation. Instead, those developments will exacerbate the problems — because the buyers of those homes will be mostly more retired couples who cashed in on their higher-priced homes located up and down the state’s coastal communities.
What really is needed is more affordable studio apartments of 300 to 400 square feet; one-bedroom units of 400 to 500 square feet, and two-bedroom units of 500 to 600 square feet.
Only when we have a growing glut of those types of units available will we see rent and home prices begin to drop to levels that young people and beginning families can afford.
Those are what’s needed — because a recent Washington Post story reported only about 20% of our population is single families composed of mom, pop and one, two or three children. The same article noted that more than 70% of our population includes single adults, adult couples, and three or more adults sharing high-priced housing. Single parents with children account for only 7%, the article added.
Until local residents throughout California’s cities switch from fighting against high-density housing to voting in favor of it, we will continue to see surging sidewalk tent communities and growing numbers of wooded campsites — while more of the state’s children and grandchildren flee to other states.
If we truly have compassion and empathy for our elderly on fixed incomes, young folks and others earning low wages — faced with using 50% or more of their income just for housing, or leaving California — we will stop fighting against high-density housing.
It’s a choice the Nimbys must make.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He now has seven books available through Amazon. His sixth, Essays from The Golden Throne, includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen travel and photo essays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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