Basic Economic Realities

This is a letter to the editor I wrote which was published in the San Mateo Daily Journal on March 3, 2022.

Editor:

Basic economic reality is not always the forte of those who write op eds.

When John Horgan argued requiring more affordable housing harms those who don’t quality for it – by raising the cost of their housing in new developments – he stumbled into several common fallacies.

Policy changes often get evaluated by comparing them to the present. That ignores the very real possibility the present is not optimal. The Slavers of the Confederacy accurately argued eliminating slavery would harm them economically. But they were dead wrong in doing so because the starting point, the acceptance of slavery to make money, was vile.

Focusing on expanding affordable housing in new developments ignores all the other distortions in the housing marketplace which could and should be adjusted. It isn’t lack of demand or lack of developer interest that’s led to a lack of affordable housing. It’s caused by all sorts of local rules which prohibit or make uneconomic the construction of more housing.

Affordable housing programs are a sign we’re trying to have our cake and eat it, too. We want the benefits of a vibrant economy…but we’d rather the people needed to staff it live someplace else so as not to reduce our quality of life. And our escalating home values, for those of us fortunate enough to own one.

If you’re interested in learning more about how economics, history, politics, psychology and science intersect and affect governance, check out the podcasts Seth Rosenblatt and I are publishing at https://www.TheBoilingFrog.net.

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