As if on cue, it seems what I recommended in my last piece has come to pass. To review, your columnist George Marlin asked if it was proper for senior government authorities to override the wishes of local governments when it came to zoning. I replied that it was wholly appropriate, because people are oblivious to the pain they cause others.
Well, this past week, the California State Assembly passed SB9, which will allow duplexing of single-family home plots. It also allows existing homeowners to create four units where a single one stood. This comes on the heels of another law that will allow 10-unit properties to be built, with faster permitting. Local ordinances will be swept away. The nattering nabobs of NIMBYism may have been silenced.
Freddie Mac estimates this country is short about 3.8 million dwellings, but I’ve seen estimates near 6 million. California’s growth, thanks to the tech industry, is one of this country’s greatest success stories. Unfortunately, if you’re only going to allow one dwelling for every four jobs created, you’re going to have a nightmare on your hands. And in cities like San Francisco, that nightmare has arrived: homelessness on a scale that would shock even a hardened Manhattanite, people living in tents on the streets. And, of course, this kind of living creates social problems that a million more policemen and social workers will not fix, nor should they be asked to.
Something had to be done. And given the hardships meted out by the selfish, it should have been done a lot sooner. But here we are.
There’s more to this than the right to affordable shelter. Thanks to NIMBYism, an entire generation of Americans have been forced to put off family formation, causing a massive demographic shift that has alarming implications. By postponing childbearing, the upwards age shift will put tens of millions of new families left to care not only for their children, but parents who will be in their 70s and 80s at the same time. Given our predatory health care system, homelessness might be the preferred option.
As policy analyst Matt Breunig pointed out, “As the age of first birth rises, generations get spread out and parents get spread thin. The number of people in a family line who are in the workhorse age range declines and so they must carry more of the caregiving load.”
These policies are also self-defeating. Recently, I was made aware that the planned development of a 55-and-over complex in Manhasset was stopped. You know the location. There is an ugly Citibank branch and a medical office where the senior facility would have stood.
Unfortunately, the senior housing, within walking distance of Plandome Road, would have provided what retailers call “footfall,” which is good for business. Local merchants are now denied that, and this would have been an ideal situation for businesspeople who have had to battle the on-line onslaught and then had Covid thrown at them. Even the Noise and Traffic Ninny Brigade would have had little to complain about. That was a blown opportunity. Ironically, it was facilitated by people who claim to be local business boosters.
This kind of political tourism by entitled dilettantes has to stop, and these people need to learn something: we’re not your “project.”
But reflexive opposition is the sign of our times, as we’ve seen during the Covid crisis. There are videos on social media of opponents to housing development on parking lots, where the protestors claim the blacktop is “part of the town’s heritage and character.”
What surprised me is Mr. Marlin’s shock at the suggestion that local boards get their zoning power removed, but it’s indicative of how provincial and cosseted Nassau County is. It’s not as if the housing crisis wasn’t well known to policymakers. Already, the city of Minneapolis abolished single-family zoning wholesale. Oregon made similar moves to SB9 a while ago.
It’s hard to get people motivated on this when they’ve got theirs, and it is very easy to compartmentalize the mass dislocation and suffering this has caused and just ignore it. But if you take a moment to get your head around where these policies have led to, you realize the ramifications go far beyond the local neighborhood.
And that’s precisely why local control needs to go.