Stossel: Bad Laws Worsen the Homeless Crisis

San Francisco encourages homelessness by limiting housing, offering generous welfare, and failing to enforce basic laws.


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San Francisco is one of America's richest cities, yet it has a major problem with homelessness and crime. An average of 85 cars are broken into daily, yet fewer than 2 percent lead to arrests.

The homeless themselves are often harassed. "They run around and they shout at themselves," one man who usually sleeps on the streets told our crew. "They make it bad for people like us that hang out with a sign."

Since store owners can't rely on city cops for help, some have hired private police to patrol their stores. There used to be hundreds of these private cops citiwide—and then the city's police union complained. There are fewer than 10 left.

San Francisco's politicians have promised to help the homeless going back decades. In 1982, Mayor Dianne Feinstein bragged about creating "a thousands units right here in the Tenderloin." In 2002, Mayor Willie Brown said "you gotta do something about it." In 2008, Mayor Gavin Newsom boasted about moving "6,860 human beings off the street." In 2018, San Francisco passed a new local tax to help pay for homeless services.

Why have the results been so lackluster? One reason: San Francisco has the nation's highest rents.

Laura Foote runs the non-profit "YIMBY Action," which stands for "yes in my backyard." The organization promotes policies that encourage more housing construction as a way to bring down prices.

Many San Francisco residents object to this mission.

"I would hate it," one woman told John Stossel.

"I think it'd be really congested," said another.

"Let me build," said developer John Dennis. He spent years trying to get permission to replace a graffiti-covered, long-defunct meat-packing plant with a 60-unit building. He eventually got permission—but it took 4 years.

"And all that time, we're paying property taxes and we're paying for maintenance of the building," Dennis told Stossel.

"I'll never do another project here," he says.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.