The Effects Of Rent Control And Nimbyism

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San Francisco won’t allow the building up of the city – tower blocks aren’t to be allowed to spoil things. San Francisco won’t allow building on much of the land in the City because of nature and that all important environment. San Francisco also has strict rent control.

Supply of housing is therefore somewhat constrained. The effect:

San Francisco’s homeless count surged 17% to more than 8,000 people.

That Californian measure of “homeless” is akin to our own measure of “rough sleeping”. This isn’t the number without a secure and affordable tenancy, the sort of measure Shelter likes to use. This is the number thinking themselves lucky to have a layer of canvas between them and the sky.

The land area of San Francisco is 121 square kilometers. That of the UK is 242,495 square kilometers.

Thus they have roughly that same number – 8,000 (for the UK it’s perhaps 5,000 on any one night, 9,000 over the course of a year) of homeless on considerably less land. The UK has, in relation to land area, 0.049% of the homeless rate of San Francisco. Or, the other way around, SF has 20,000 times the homeless rate, in relation to land area, as the UK.

Other calculations can be done to population size and so on.

But what we might learn from this is that making it difficult to build anything and having price controls on what is built probably isn’t the way to solve homelessness, right? Which does raise the interesting question. Why do so many here argue that we’ve got to have rent control? And, obviously, no one can be allowed to loosen planning regs either?

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Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

They were going to carpet-bomb the city but they couldn’t find any green sustainable bombs.

TD
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TD

It’s a real conundrum. How do you promote the construction of the restrictive “affordable” housing the planners think people ought to live in while preventing the building of housing people actually want?

Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

Let’s not forget the other parts of the equation. First, hand out free money, and free needles, and decriminalize minor theft — and they will come. It is sort of like someone putting up a bunch of bird feeders around his home, and then being surprised about all the bird poop in his yard. Incentives work! Second, rough sleeping is a whole lot less uncomfortable in a place with Northern California’s climate than, say, the UK’s. Absence of dis-incentives works! Interesting thing is that, within living memory, the coolest places on the planet were flowers-in-your-hair San Francisco, swinging London, and… Read more »

TD
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TD

There is much to criticize about progressive policies, but much of SF to me appears as it did 40 years ago. There were always rough areas, but some of them have been (horrors) gentrified and can actually be quite nice to walk around these days. What has happened is that an area near the Tenderloin several blocks south of the financial district and near the theatre district and tourist areas around Union Square has become much worse. It was never nice, but there were hopes that encouraging various tech companies to locate nearby might help improve things. That hasn’t happened,… Read more »

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

I’ll see your Golden Gate and raise you a ferry into Manhattan (I recommend the one from Hoboken).

Spike
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Spike

I disagree in passing with Tim’s implication that California knows what it means by “the homeless.” Like LGBTQ, it lumps together many different phenomena, from brain disease to (unanalyzed) poverty, to refusal to rent a place to stay, to playing the beggar as a lucrative career. California gives them all a heartstring-tugging label that dictates how we should feel about all of them.

You’re right that San Francisco regulates until building new housing is impossible. But it also dithers about sanctioning actual misconduct.

Bloke in Kent
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Bloke in Kent

But I thought we all agreed that real homelessness in the UK (I.e. rough sleeping) was nothing to do with housing supply but down to addiction and mental health issues. These need addressing but are not housing issues.

However, under a leftist/socialist regime at some point it must get to the stage where ‘normal’ folks find themselves on the streets for lack of any alternative.

The best remedy is permissive planning with strong property rights. Let locals decide what they want built where; it’s got bugger all to do with the government.

Pcar
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Pcar

In San Francisco protecting birds and grass is more important than protecting humans
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1Qj4Bm47hA

President Trump is not amused
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dAB64qIY0g