Photo: Jason Merritt / Staff (Getty Images)
Yesterday we reported that Long Beach City College started a program to let students stay in their cars because of the dire housing crisis in California Park overnight in a multi-storey car park for sure. It’s one of those things that are badly needed, but also a sign of how messed things have gotten. And if you want to understand why it got so bad, look no further than the man who struggled to keep Santa Monica from building affordable housing.
As Vice reports, the city of Santa Monica recently decided to demolish an unneeded parking deck and replace it with affordable housing. There are also good reasons to part with it.
Two studies commissioned by the city showed that there was enough parking space. As before, there are still 2,000 free parking spaces even during the busiest times. Replacing 337 of them with something more useful, like real human housing, wouldn’t run anywhere near a parking shortage.
Second, it’s old and in need of millions of dollars in repairs. $ 4.5 million in repairs to be precise. Tearing it down wouldn’t be cheap, but it would still be cheaper. Plus, you know, the part where people get houses that they can actually afford.
According to a member of the Housing Commission, almost all members of the commission supported the idea, although proposals like this are usually difficult to get off the ground. But since we’re talking about California and most of California hate new homes, it obviously wasn’t that easy.
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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 wasn’t as an asshole as he actually is.
Even his friends can’t afford to live in Santa Monica. It is bad that so many people who work in the city cannot afford to live there. In his opinion, that has to change. But like all NIMBYs, he wants this change to take place without actually changing anything. And most of all, he wants this change to happen without affecting him in any way.
He believes that when shoppers have to walk more than a block to get to a store, it creates a cascade of disasters that will turn Santa Monica into a “wasteland” and a “recession.” You’d think the idea of more people living right next to the shops would be appealing to a guy like him, but I think since the rent on these apartments wouldn’t be $ 4,000 a month, these residents wouldn’t be the right people Types of people who would go into the right business.
This is just a man and a project, but the exact same thing happens every time someone suggests building new homes in California. It’s not exactly a Democrats versus Republicans issue, either. People on both sides of the aisle are working tirelessly to stop new homes, and have done so for decades.
And what did that bring you? A federal state with a housing shortage of 6.8 million units. You don’t have to be a Ph.D. Understanding in business that strong demand and extremely limited supply drive prices up. And when people cannot afford an apartment, they end up on the street.
Of course, other factors also play a role here. Prop 13, for example, limits the property tax increase to 2 percent per year. There is also Prop 58 which allows homeowners to transfer their homes to their children without reevaluating.
Both sound good in theory, but it was a disaster as housing costs soared. As long as homeowners continue to block new homes, their property values will continue to skyrocket, while their taxes will remain essentially unchanged.
There is also Article 34 which requires a public vote to approve new social housing. As you can probably imagine, the people who “absolutely support affordable housing just not near where we live” shoot them down every time it is suggested.
“Why do so many people live on the street?” they ask and do everything in their power to ensure that rents continue to rise and that no new homes are built.
“Why is there so much crime?” They ask and do everything possible to preserve as much of the city as possible in unstable housing conditions.
“Why don’t so many homeless people want to stay in shelters?” They ask, while at work, to block permanent supportive shelters and gloss over the inhuman restrictions that shelters often impose on anyone wanting a bed for the night.
Resolving both the housing and homelessness crises will be complicated and complex. But figuring out how things got so bad is pretty easy. That’s because selfish assholes like John are all happy that others suffer as long as they get richer. They wouldn’t say they want college students to live in their cars, but changing that could potentially reduce their bottom line (or block their multi-million dollar views), which is perfectly fine with them.