Save the Yuppies!

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Officials in Santa Barbara, California, shed a tear for the worthy poor, and reach out to help the second-tier country club set scrape by:

The City Council here had already created a class of affordable housing several years ago for people making up to 200 percent of the median income. Last week, they agreed to tailor the Los Portales [affordable housing] project for people making up to 240 percent, or nearly $160,000. (To keep these affordable condos affordable, buyers would be subject to price controls on resale that would restrict any price increase to about 2 percent a year.)

"We're creating a new class of affordable housing, affordable housing accessible for truly middle-class individuals," Councilman Das Williams said last week. "That's something that's good."

Arguably related classic Onion piece here.

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  1. A better idea is to rent and invest the difference in a matress.

  2. Homeless people in California make more money than yuppies in the Midwest. It is truly bizarre.

  3. I thought this WAS an Onion piece.

  4. Santa Barbara politics is so incredibly fucked up. This only scratches the surface.

    Despite all that, I still wish I was back there.

  5. I just hope this program trickles down to the Silicon Valley CEOs, Hollywood media moguls, etc. We all need a place to call our own.

  6. Ladies and Gents, this kind of middle class outreach has been going on a long time:

    Seattle’s program is modeled after one San Jose, Calif., created in 1999 that so far has helped 540 teachers. San Jose has been more successful, in part, because it offers more assistance – about $3 million a year – to
    teachers earning higher salaries than those eligible for Seattle’s program. In San Jose, teachers earning up $88,600 can receive city loans to buy houses that cost up to $650,000.

    Government money to help teachers– who make more than I do, I might add, buy a house in Seattle. The Times writes this handwringer of an article– and even throws in that one teacher had to ‘rush’ to close her $200,000 condo deal to take advantage of the loan before her summer income kicked in. I nearly tossed my cookies.

  7. it’s hard to get sympathy for people making $160,000 a year if you’re down in Texas or something

    Or anywhere else, for that matter.

  8. thoreau: Thank you for posting first what I might not have had the courage to say: Damn, I wish I was back there. I grew up in SB, before my parents were priced out of the city (20-odd years ago), and I loved it. The first thing I thought when I read this article was not, “Damn government price fixing!” but, “Maybe I could afford to move back now?”

  9. Come on you guys. You can still afford to rent somebodys garage on Del Playa.

  10. Back in 1979, when the issue of “the homeless” was getting major play, somebody published a satirical book called The 80s : A Look Back at the Tumultuous Decade, 1980-1989. It was sort of Onion-like, only set in “the future.” One of the issues examined was “the plight of the second-homeless” — people who could only afford one home.

    There was a photo of a yuppie holding up a cardboard sign on which was scrawled:

    SECOND HOMELESS
    PLEASE HELP!

    MONEY!
    FOOD!
    EQUITY LINE!
    ANYTHING!

  11. This isn’t actually as ridiculous as it sounds — although it is NOT my idea of good housing policy. In some places like Santa Barbara, real estate prices have gone so high that finding a house you can afford on $150,000 isn’t easy.

    And note how they’re not letting the buyers profit from appreciation. There’s the rub: Land rents are high and increasing; therefore land prices, which are capitalized future expected rents, are increasing even more. This program is supposed to help people find a place to live without giving away to them the profits of future land speculation.

    A better idea would be to tax land instead of buildings and incomes, taking the hot air out of the land boom (which in polite society is called the real estate boom, or even the housing boom). The people would be free to keep their earnings, and not free to profit from land they didn’t create.

    “Instead of paying rent to a landlord and tax to the State, why not pay rent to the State and no taxes?”

  12. the City Charter strictly limits buildings to 60 feet, about four stories …. there was so much concern over the 90-unit project’s “size, bulk and scale” that the agency went back to its architecture and development partners and retrenched

    Hm, it doesn’t sound like Santa Barbara is all that concerned about “affordable housing” to me. Shocking!

  13. In some places like Santa Barbara, real estate prices have gone so high that finding a house you can afford on $150,000 isn’t easy.

    And it’s even harder when the city’s politicians and residents are arrayed against you.

  14. “In some places like Santa Barbara, real estate prices have gone so high that finding a house you can afford on $150,000 isn’t easy.”
    Then move.

  15. My wife was talking about possibly getting a job in Santa Barbara sometime in the future. Let me be VERY optimistic about our income and ask whether it’s possible to rent a garage for $100,000?

  16. If you constrian the supply of buildable lots you will raise the price of housing…period.

    If these communities want affordable houseing then they must deregulate subdivision and building regualtions.

    Smart planning is a failure.

    If you live in Washington State a good start would be to vote yes on I 933.

  17. “Instead of paying rent to a landlord and tax to the State, why not pay rent to the State and no taxes?”

    It’s semantics. Even though you may have your home paid for, stop paying taxes on it and see who takes it? You buy something you can never own.

  18. My wife was talking about possibly getting a job in Santa Barbara sometime in the future. Let me be VERY optimistic about our income and ask whether it’s possible to rent a garage for $100,000?

    You could get a decent apartment. Goleta is nice.

  19. Smart planning is a failure.

    Smart growth is a failure because most people don’t want to live in pre-1950 building patterns. It has no bearing on Santa Barbara, because what Santa Barbara is doing – artificially limiting density – is not smart growth.

  20. True story: A few years ago, I attended a national meeting of a former employer’s law department in Santa Barbara. Although I was struck by staying at the “Hotel California” (one of the fifty hotels that wrongly claims to be the inspiration for the song) and at having tar-removal wipes in my room (huh?), the biggest surprise came while in town. We were all sitting at an outdoor caf?, enjoying a few beers, and a guy comes up to us. He’s better dressed than we are (these are lawyers, folks, and our general counsel was sitting with us), young (maybe 25), and obviously educated. So, naturally, he asks us for a handout. When I think of California, that’s what I remember the most.

  21. If housing is so unaffordable, why are so many people affording it? Who is living in this unaffordable housing? What happens when they run out of money? If they all move out, will their unaffordable housing become affordable to others? Or will it remain unaffordable?

  22. High prices are in many of these cases the direct result of restrictive zoning and other extraneous governmentally imposed costs related to building codes and design restrictions, and may be laid right in the lap of the same nannytarians currently boo-hooing about affordability and inclusion.

    Don’t forget our protectionist timber and wood import rules which drive up the cost of construction; ask the Canadians about that. For that matter, ask the Mexicans how they like our protection of American family concrete producers.

    In the People’s Republic of Gallatin County, the Bozeman City Commissars are diligently striving to impose an “inclusionary housing” regulation which will establish a class of price-controlled housing in the market. This will, of course, require administrative services to ensure only “deserving” individuals are admitted to the program. Oddly enough, one of the Commissars is closely involved with an organization which is ideally suited to provide such services. But there’s no conflict of interest; he is convinced of that.

  23. tar-removal wipes in my room (huh?)

    Go swimming at the beach. Then you’ll understand.

  24. thoreau,

    Oh, I understand. I just don’t get it. We don’t have tar on our beaches. I’m told that the tar is naturally produced and has nothing to do with the oil operations offshore. If that’s not true, I may be getting upset about the oil rigs slated to go up in the Gulf.

  25. In Santa Barbara, there is no house you can afford if you are making only 150k. Starting prices are in the low 900’s for fixer uppers.

    What is strange about Santa B is that there is very little industry. Most of the money is “made” money. Most owners have either already owned for 20+ years or they already made a pile before moving to SB.

    I have a relative who lives there and is fortunate enough to have found a good job with a small tech company there, but it’s nothing like the Bay Area. You really have to get lucky to make a good living in Santa Barbara. Everyone else had better bring a living with you if you want to buy a house.

    nmg

  26. If housing is so unaffordable, why are so many people affording it?

    “Suicide” mortgages–you know, all of that interest-only and option/ARM crap that people have been doing during this housing bubble. Of course, with those mortgages you aren’t really “buying” anything, since you don’t gain any equity until the balloon payments start a few years down the road, at which time the buyer will no longer be able to afford said payments.

    Santa Barbara has long been a wealthy enclave, so complaining about affordable housing there is rather silly. However, most of the rest of California is a huge bubble market that is currently foundering and is about to collapse. Prices in most Cal. markets (and really all around the country) have so outpaced incomes and rental values that a collapse is inevitable. Residential real estate is all about the fundamentals, and they are way out of whack.

  27. Most of the money is “made” money.

    That was the impression I had, too. The difference seems to be that Santa Barbara is a small metropolis in its own right, rather than someone else’s bedroom community, so it’s not so easy to import cheap labor from the other side of the tracks as it is in the case of typical bedroom communities.

  28. My gf has a house in Santa Barbara which is technically still owned by her father, who bought it way back in 1972. I grew up in a place not unlike it in Ohio (sans the palm trees and wonderful climate) and the Ohio house recently sold for just under $100k after a lot of remodeling. My gf’s house is easily worth $1.5 mil and hasn’t even seen an appliance upgrade in 30 years. Location, location, location. For perspective, my gf works for a guy who owns an olympic athlete training facility in SB, but he can’t afford to own a house there so the poor guy has to live in some slum named Malibu and commute. Santa Barbara could EASILY create affordable housing while spending nary a nickle by simply removing their ridiculous growth restrictions and allowing the people who want to build something to come in and build it. Santa Barbara is one of those enclaves from the Big Box Menace where you have to drive to Goleta to spend your money at Home Depot and drive to Ventura to spend your money at Target. They can’t claim they’re trying to help the mom-and-pop stores either, since they’ve already property-taxed them out of the area. Now, I realize it would just be horrible to catch a glimpse of a large retailer as you drive by, but with all the extra tax money they would take in by allowing larger stores I’m sure they could afford to surround the place with trees to obscure it. Plus, trees help the environment, which would give the SB city council a warm fuzzy.

  29. The thing in Santa Barbara is that there is only so much land left to build on. The place is a 30 mile long and 2 mile wide strip between the ocean and the mountains.

    Now, there are still some undeveloped areas, especially west of Goleta and out towards Gaviota, but the real solution is density: Apartment buildings, townhouses, etc. Santa Barbarans are density-averse. I believe that’s what joe calls “snob zoning.”

    I can understand why they don’t want downtown Santa Barbara and the waterfront to look like Fort Lauderdale: Giant towers along the beach. Now, I wouldn’t write my preferences into law, but I can at least understand the preference. But there’s no reason why they couldn’t allow more new buildings taller than 5 stories (especially away from downtown), more apartment complexes, more townhouses, and other high density solutions, especially away from downtown.

    And especially in Isla Vista. If everybody hates the students, why not allow lots of tall apartment buildings in IV? With the tall university buildings and Francisco Torres dorms, a few more tall buildings wouldn’t seem out of place. Pack in as many units as possible, and fewer students will move into other neighborhoods. Sure, the parking situation will suck, but it already sucks. A lot of students don’t have cars, and IV is so bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly that they can always get along without cars.

    Still, despite my rants about the way that Santa Barbara is run, I love the place and I wish I could go back.

    I think that in the long term zoning will loosen up. Right now the southern half of the county controls the Board of Supervisors by one vote thanks to gerrymandering, but that will change after the 2010 census. With the differences in population growth there’s no way they’ll be able to pull off another gerrymander. Then there will be a pro-growth majority on the Board.

  30. “If you live in Washington State a good start would be to vote yes on I 933”

    Now that’s funny.

    Crap ideological legislation is a bad idea no matter what position you hold on the ideological landscape.

    Limited government does not mean government burdened by excess regulations designed to make compliance difficult or impossible. Sorry, but that just wastes more of your tax dollars, something I thought libertarians were against.

    But putting the word fairness in the title means it is good for everyone.

    “Smart planning is a failure.”

    By definition, failed planning wasn’t smart planning. Examples of smart planning are the ones that worked. No one notices them, cuz they worked.

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