We need to build 200,000 housing units in California every year to keep up with population, but we are only building 80,000, and this has been going on for 20 years. This one fact explains everything. It explains why rent is so high, why house prices are so high, why people are doubling up in apartments, why recent college graduates in California move back home with their parents, and why even high paid software engineers in Silicon Valley are living in RVs. All this is happening because we are building less than half the number of housing units that we need to keep up with population. Why is this happening?
NIMBYism. It’s all due to NIMBYism. California is where the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement began. While everyone in California knows that we need to build more housing, everybody wants that housing to be built someplace else, not near them. You can see the effect of this very clearly at BART stations. When our subway system was built 50 years ago, everyone assumed that high density housing would be built around BART stations, but for the most part, that never happened. The area immediately around most BART stations looks exactly like it did 50 years ago. Why? Because the people who live near BART stations want new housing to be built at somebody else’s BART station, not their BART station. Just stand in the middle of the parking lot at the North Berkeley BART station and look around. All the buildings you see are old, built before the subway was constructed. The same is true at the Ashby, Rockridge, Orinda, Lafayette, and most other stations in the BART system. Why? It isn’t because real estate developers wouldn’t like to build high-rise apartment houses and condos near BART stations in desirable neighborhoods. It is because the people who already live in those neighborhoods won’t let them. Unless this attitude changes, and I see no evidence that it is changing, California’s housing crisis will only get worse. It is sad. This is, after all, aside from the high cost of housing, the best place in the world to live.
In October of 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Paris to meet with President Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle had often opposed U.S. foreign policy, and Kennedy wanted a united front against the nuclear missiles in Cuba. At their meeting at the Elysee Palace, Dean Acheson offered to show de Gaulle CIA surveillance photos of the Russian nuclear missile complexes in Cuba. Acheson said: “Here, let me show you the photos.” President de Gaulle waved off Acheson and said: “No. No. No. No. I don’t need to see the photos. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.”
Now, I wonder – what world leader today would say the same thing about Donald Trump? “No. No. No. No. I don’t need to see any evidence. The word of President Trump is good enough for me.” Hmmm. Well, who would say that?