Will Anyone Ever Be Able To Build Again in San Francisco?
Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, by Conor Dougherty, Penguin Press, 288 pages, $28
How did the richest state in the country end up with its worst housing crisis? And is there any politically practical way out of its mess?
Those are the two questions running through Conor Dougherty’s Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America. The book takes a deep dive into the struggle people undergo to find shelter in ultra-expensive California—specifically, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Zoning policy is about as sexy as a four-hour municipal land-use hearing, so it’s no mean feat that Dougherty is able to transmute regulatory minutiae into a breezy, character-driven narrative that illustrates the central reason so many cities are so damn expensive: “a dire shortage of available housing in places where people and companies want to live.” Golden Gates pays attention to academic research—particularly the work of the Harvard economist Edward Glaeser—but the book isn’t a tangle of numbers and white-paper citations. Instead, it tells its story through the eyes of a set of characters: an East Coast transplant who manages to kickstart a pro-development revolution, a Catholic nun who leverages tech-industry donations to keep gentrification at bay, a city manager who’d rather resign than sign off on a shrunken housing project, and so on.
Dougherty is far from a libertarian ideologue—he’s an economics reporter at The New York Times—but his supply-and-demand story will have pro-market readers mostly nodding along in agreement. “Because U.S. cities don’t accommodate new people or housing nearly as well or as eagerly as they used to,” he explains, growth in these cities “has caused new residents and speculators to bid up the prices of the not-enough housing that already exists.” And the chief reason the region can’t accommodate that new housing is over-regulation.
The fact that California has a housing shortage doesn’t require a ton of proof. Much of Golden Gates is therefore devoted to explaining how that shortage occurred and why it’s so intractable.
The crux of the book’s argument is that the rapid growth of such industries as tech and finance has produced an intense demand for homes and offices in a handful of large metro areas. Meanwhile, those same metros—whose politics are dominated by a mix of exclusionary suburbanites, urban anti-d
Article from Latest – Reason.com