Yesterday, we reported that because the housing crisis in California is so bad, Long Beach City College had launched a program to let students who live in their cars park in a parking garage overnight with security. It’s one of those things that’s desperately needed but also a sign of how messed up things have gotten. And if you want to understand why things have gotten so bad, look no further than the man fighting to stop Santa Monica from building affordable housing.
As Vice reports, the city of Santa Monica recently decided to tear down a parking deck that it no longer needs and replace it with affordable housing. There are good reasons to get rid of it, too.
Two studies commissioned by the city showed that there’s more than enough parking available. As in, even during the busiest times, there are still 2000 free parking spaces. Replacing 337 of them with something more useful like actual homes for people wouldn’t even come close to causing a parking shortage.
Second, it’s old and needs millions of dollars in repairs. $4.5 million in repairs, to be specific. Tearing it down wouldn’t be cheap, but it would still be cheaper. Plus, you know, that part where people get homes they can actually afford.
According to one Housing Commission member, even though proposals like this typically struggle to get off the ground, almost everyone on the Commission supported the idea. But, of course, since this is California we’re talking about, and most of California hates new housing, it hasn’t been that simple.
A group of business owners, including commercial landlord John Alle, have launched a “Save Parking Structure 3” campaign to stop affordable housing. In an interview with Vice, Alle did his best to make it sound like he’s not as much of an asshole as he actually is.
His friends can’t afford to live in Santa Monica, either. It’s bad that so many of the people who work in the city can’t afford to live there. He thinks that needs to change. But like all NIMBYs, he wants that change to happen without anything actually changing. And most importantly, he wants that change to happen without impacting him in any way.
In his mind, if shoppers have to walk more than a block to get to a shop, it will create a cascade of disasters that will turn Santa Monica into a “wasteland” and send it into a “recession.” You’d think the idea of having more people living right next to the shops would be appealing for a guy like him, but I guess since the rent on those apartments wouldn’t be $4000 a month, those residents wouldn’t be the right kinds of people who would go to the right kinds of shop.
This is just one man and one project, but the exact same thing happens any time someone proposes building new housing in California. It’s not exactly a Democrats versus Republicans issue, either. People on both sides of the aisle work tirelessly to stop new housing, and they’ve been doing it for decades.
And what has that gotten them? A state with a 6.8-million unit housing shortage. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics to understand that strong demand and an extremely limited supply drives prices up. And when people can’t afford a place to live, they end up on the street.
Obviously, there are other factors at play here. Prop 13, for example, caps property tax increases at 2 percent a year. There’s also Prop 58 that allows homeowners to transfer their houses to their children without a reassessment.
Those both sound nice in theory, but it’s been a disaster due to the fact that housing costs have skyrocketed. As long as homeowners continue to block new housing, their property values will continue to shoot up while their taxes stay essentially flat.
Similarly, there’s Article 34 that requires a public vote to approve new public housing. As you can probably guess, any time that gets proposed, the “we totally support affordable housing just not anywhere near where we live” people shoot it down.
“Why are there so many people living on the streets?” they ask while doing everything in their power to ensure rents keep going up and no new housing gets built.
“Why is there so much crime?” they ask while doing everything they can to keep as much of the city in unstable housing situations as possible.
“Why do so many people who are homeless not want to stay in shelters?” they ask while working to block permanent supportive housing and conveniently glossing over the inhumane restrictions that shelters often place on anyone who wants a bed for the night.
Fixing both the housing and homelessness crisis will be complicated and complex. But figuring out how things got so bad is pretty simple. It’s because selfish assholes like John Alle are happy for others to suffer as long as they keep getting richer. They wouldn’t say they want college students to live in their cars, but changing that might possibly cut into their bottom line (or block their multi-million-dollar views), that’s totally fine with them.