Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is It a Wonder How Housing Prices Are So High?

I appreciate environmental regulations and the like, but it seems like a lot of folks in California just take it too far:
Talk of any development along the rail line has raised concern in the environmental community, some of whom believe the system will act as a catalyst for growth, as developers try to build for those who want to live near a train station.
and this:
Under proposed air-quality guidelines, for the first time in the U.S., if extra cancer risk meets a specific threshold, the developer would be told to study the potential health effects of the freeway pollution on the people who would live in the homes. That would be in addition to what the developer is already required to do: study the effects of the housing on freeway traffic and the surrounding environment. If the health risk is too great, the developer might need to modify or scrap his development plan, or spend extra time persuading the city or county to approve it.
If we can't develop near transit stations or near freeways in existing urban areas, where the heck are people supposed to develop new homes that won't affect the environment? Am I missing something here?


Eric Herot said...

That first environmentalist argument is a straw man. It is safe to assume that whether or not development happens has little to do with the existence of train stations, but if it is going to happen, it is definitely more environmentally sound to have it close to transit.

Anonymous said...

Your post has an error. It should read, "...has raised concerns in the I've-Got-Mine NIMBY community..."

Pedestrianist said...

Requiring developers to study the health impacts of developments near freeways is a good thing, and SF has been moving in that direction for a few years.

Developments (esp developments targeting families) near traffic sewers and freeways need to evaluate the health hazards of being near so much exhaust and particulate pollution and mitigate that for new residents, either with inoperable windows on some areas and HVAC changes.

That can discourage some development, but proximity to a freeway doesn't correlate well with access to transit.

In SF the fight for these studies was partially driven (no pun) because all new development was being planned for the East side of town, near the city's only freeways, and at the expense of building housing along light rail lines on the West side.

New housing should be close to clean transit, not dirty freeways.

arcady said...

They don't want new housing built anywhere. Which is a perfectly logical position, given that it directly benefits them by making housing more scarce, thus increasing the value of the housing (and, thanks to Prop 13, at no cost to them, since their property tax increase is capped at 2% per year). They can get away with it because the people hurt by this policy (that is, those looking to move into the area and not being able to afford it) by definition can't vote. And that's pretty much how California has been operating until now: letting the people already here have various advantages, at the expense of the seemingly inexhaustible stream of newcomers. The current crisis is to a significant extent because that stream has, in fact, been exhausted.

Anonymous said...

California's SB 375 creates a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNAs)that has two components. Its mandates that communities add a certain amount of additional growth (essentially a mandate for infill). But it also mandates that RHNAs achieve certain mixed income goals (essentially low income housing mandates).

One of the things that people are paying for in a place like Marin County is excellent public schools. School test scores are largely determined by the average educational attainment of their parents.

When you start adding more low income families to a community, that hurts local test scores, which hurts property values.

The reason wealthy people in Coastal California went liberal instead of conservative was historically preserving the environment was an excellent pretext for keeping additional development (and poor people) out of their community.

Right now there is push back against SB 375 because a lot of people don't want poor people living in their communities that will lower school test scores and hurt property values.

arcady said...

To what extent are good schools a result of the increased funding that is made available as a result of higher property tax collections from higher property values? I honestly don't know how school funding works in California.

As for the explanation of Marin, it's so very cynical, but I think pretty much accurate. And it partly explains why the liberals seem so very conservative in their liberalism.

Anonymous said...

During the 1970's there was a series of California Supreme Ct decisions (Serrano v Priest), that equalized at the state level funding for school districts. William Fischel argued persuasively that had the unintended effect of getting voters to limit property taxes via prop 13. (No reason to vote to increase property taxes, if increasing property taxes won't strengthen local schools and thus increase local property values). As a result of prop 13, school funding is mostly paid for by the State of California, not local property taxes.

But property prices are still greatly determined by the strength of local public school test scores. Marin has some of the best performing public schools in the State. A big reason Marin, Peidmont, Los Altos Hills and other wealthy enclaves in the bay area switched from Republican to Democratic was strict growth controls that had the effect of pricing the poor out of their communities.

SB 375 is mandating mixed income infill (which means that low income people and lower scoring students will be introduced to these enclaves).

In big cities especially big cities with poorly functioning public schools like Oakland, Sacramento or LA, mixed income infill isn't going into wealthy communities and it isn't going to harm high performing public schools. But in smaller towns, SB 375 is a threat to property values.

Cavan said...

and I thought our NIMBY's were bad. California seems to have NIMBYism enshrined in its laws and state constitution.

Anonymous said...

Condos(rich) good, trailers(poor) bad?

Daniel Sparing said...

This is strange - the only way a rail station makes sense is with high density development just around them.