We need affordable housing---but not the Mayor's kind
Of course, we need more affordable housing in LA. But we don't need the Mayor's kind---which taxes the people who already own homes for the sake of getting a small handful of service workers into homes, but really hands most of the taxpayer money over to developers and contractors.
Professor Vasishth---get your hands out of my wallet.
Zuma, it's not about living in a too-free free market society, as the professor might suggest, and it's not about recognizing an enlightened need to violate the way the market works. The reason the market doesn't work is that it's been so gamed into not working that most developers don't even deal with it at all---they simply ply their trade elsewhere. And they lie to us when they say "growth is inevitable"---because they only seem to permit the kind of developments that court growth.
The reason we don't have more affordable housing in Los Angeles is because since 1999 City Council has only incentivized developers to provide limited supplies of it for city renters, while providing more of it for people who don't even live here. They have brought us various stripes of conversion moratoria that keeps starter condos off the market. They have permitted ever costlier and costlier new homes as developers decide they can't build in the City without making the margins higher and higher. They have made sure LA ever remains a renter's town, with the renters getting ever more disgruntled, and the starter homes further and further out of reach, and all the new homeowners ironically coming from outside the City.
Worse, this set of pols have insisted that "growth is a fact of the City" while only permitting the kind of projects that perpetuate growth. You think anyone who doesn't already own a home is buying a million-plus condo? You think anyone who currently owns a home in LA wants to swap it for a downtown condo? No---the City is courting growth.
Any who's buying those places that people flip, anyway? It's people from out of town, people who come from places with strong currencies...like Seoul...or Irvine...
Before it does anything else---the City should disincentivize, even punish, flipping. Because flipping brings in people from elsewhere, always. It contributes to growth.
Zuma, Affordable Housing as the Mayor's team is putting it out turns affordable housing into a lottery. It perpetuates all the growth from out of town while only letting a lucky few sneak in---while the displaced others are obliged to tiptoe out of town. There is no way that the government can incentivize enough developers to bring us enough new affordable housing that's going to make a meaningful dent. Our current set of politicians have surrendered completely to the few remaining developers who are willing to work with them.
We have tons of market based solutions already ready to go in the housing market. We have the best prefab designers in the country right here. We have microhousing all ready to go. We have developers servicing the workforce sector all ready to work with City-granted 99-year land leases, to take the high price of land off the table. But the government has to figure out how to get developers interested to build these things, not just to build the kind of housing they want to build.
Don't blame the free market, Zuma. We don't have one in housing, and we never will. Housing in an urban environment is always the most politicized economic activity.
The City government's role is like a bridle, and the City's housing market is like a horse. The bridle can make the horse go fast, or make it stand still, or even hurt the horse that is the City's development. Since the last good thing the bridle did---the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance---it's been all harmful to the horse, ever since. It's been all bad news for the people who actually live here, ever since.
It's not about a free market. It's about creating the kind of policy that turns housing into a realizable dream for the many, not a fake lottery for the few.