According to Scott Wiener the housing crisis has reached such proportions that aggressive action must be taken with Senate Bill 827 proposing over-ruling local zoning. Bills passed in September gave developers the ability to bypass all local and environmental review.
Seemingly there is no crisis greater than the housing crisis, and all Californians must sacrifice quality of life to accommodate rapid housing growth near transit regardless that this will:
- substantially increase traffic congestion, when are roads are already beyond capacity
- increase droughts
- create parking overflow issues
- threaten the environment
- impose large scale development on small scale towns
- turn otherwise suburban cities into urban cities
A Survey of California Voters Tells a Different Story
Wiener's obsession, which is sweeping along state Democratic politicians including senate leader Kevin DeLeon, with housing flies in the face of voter's actual concerns.
Between January 21 and 30, 2018 the Public Policy Institute of California polled 1,705 California adult residents in both English, Spanish. The very first question posed to respondents was:
"which one issue facing California today do you think is the most important for the governor and state legislature to work on in 2018?"
Readers following the aggressive housing legislation being pushed through Sacramento by State Senator Scott Wiener might have expected housing costs to come right at the top of the list - but the survey tells a quite different story:
Housing costs come far down the list with only 3% of respondents listing it as the top issue that the governor and state legislature need to deal with. Instead issues that would be exacerbated by growing housing too fast are far more front of mind to California voters.
Immigration is listed as the top concern by 20% of respondents. Clearly this is a national news topic and a concern front of mind with policy shifts by the Trump administration.
Unsurprisingly jobs and the economy comes a distant second, listed by 9% of respondents. Education, schools and teachers comes third at 8%.
Then come a raft of issues that Wiener's housing legislation is likely to worsen:
- State budget, deficit and taxes 7% - cities are already facing a major threat of bankruptcy due to unfunded benefits. Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, predicts in his book "Boomerang" that many of California's cities may face bankruptcy and have to drastically cut services when the next recession hits.
- Infrastructure 6% - the survey question did not specify the type of infrastructure, but one might surmise respondents were referring to transportation infrastructure. In 2014 according to census data 84% of California's workers commuted by car, only 5% took transit. (Source). Scott Wiener's new housing bills would rapidly increase housing. It focuses development around transit corridors and transit hubs - while a sizable number of new residents in cities may take transit the likely effect in the many affected suburbs will be to add many more cars to the commute - worsening traffic and making this front of mind issue far worse.
- Environment, pollution & global warming 5% - while Wiener's bill ostensibly may help in cities, where transit adoption and average load factors are high, it will create congestion and add transit with relatively low average load factors likely to increase CO2 emissions.
- Health care & health insurance 5%
- Homelessness 5% - arguably Scott Wiener's fast growth policies may help, but this overlooks how much his policies focus on market rate housing. For profit developers prefer to minimize affordable units, building luxury units for the wealthy. Wiener supporters claim that increasing even luxury supply will reduce or at least stabilize rents for the entire market. However adding luxury units can create induced demand drawing in foreign speculators and investors.
- Housing costs & availability 3% - housing appears almost at the end of the list. It was presented as one of twelve options, and came ninth.
- Government in general, problems with elected officials & parties 3%
- Water and drought 3% - with California receiving good rain in the winter of 2016/17 voter's memories of the prior drought have diminished. While droughts are not such an acute front of mind issue we should remember what is happening in Cape Town where three drought years occurred in succession leading to a looming disaster. Politicians had not planned for this worst case scenario which was likely accelerated by global warming. Now Cape Town faces "day zero" when the city will run out of water and the water supply will be turned off.
- Crime, gangs and drugs 2%
Wiener and fellow Democrat's alarmism around housing appears to be at odds with what California's voters see as the top issues. The question arises, is the state government doing it's job? It appears to be focused on all the wrong things - perhaps distracted by the opportunity of appearing heroes solving a crisis.
This voter survey should be a wake up call to Scott Wiener and Kevin DeLeon that they don't have the right priorities and are not serving the people who elected them.