Affordable Housing Thread

This is such a complex topic, relating also to homelessness, and I hope to have links to articles, while also making this a space to discuss the topic. The goal is to gain a better understanding and identifying effective solutions. Here’s a twitter thread about how YIMBY’s (Yes in My Backyard)–people who support building more housing units in their communities can create the impression that they’re pro-landlord and pro-developer, and how this can turn others off because of strong anti-landlord and anti-developer feelings.

7 thoughts on “Affordable Housing Thread

  1. Why Tokyo is the land of rising home construction but not prices

    I recommend reading this Financial Times article about housing in Tokyo. The article supports the belief that increasing housing supply is crucial to controlling housing costs. It seems obvious and undeniable, yet discussions about affordable housing often seems centered on price control type of solutions–either the government providing housing with lower market rates or requiring developers to do so. The article suggests that a better solution is increasing the number of housing units.

    However, there are problems and costs to that, as the article points to. In Japan, landowners have a lot of freedom to build whatever they want on their land. In the article, someone builds a multi-story apartment next to the author’s home. The article also mentions that the cities look ugly.

    If increasing the housing supply is the solution to controlling housing costs, what the article suggests is that the next biggest problem is determining the way this will take place. Specifically, where will the new housing supply be built? What’s the criteria and process for doing this? Will there any be restrictions and who will decide this?

    My sense is that the people perceive the building of more housing–in their community–as something that is, on balance, largely negative. This can be seen by the common Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) response by people when new development is proposed in their community.

    How do you deal with this–specifically the concerns and complains that people bring up? One answer seems to be a variety of zoning and regulation that addresses these concerns. For example, height restrictions and parking requirements imposed on developers are ways to address concerns about aesthetics and transportation. But these type of requirements seem to limit or slow the housing supply. Another solution could involve incentives or compensation to people in communities that build more housing. Off the top of my head, for example, maybe lower taxes on homes could be given to these communities.

    Japan’s solution seems to be an interesting one. In essence, everyone has the potential to bear the burden of increased housing at any time. Landowners, small and large, can also reap financial benefits as well. I’m skeptical that Americans would tolerate this approach, though.

  2. Column
    Health Beat: Bring Back The Mental Hospitals
    Most of them were shut down in favor of community-based services, but that has proven to be a colossal failure.

    By Kathleen Kozak / About 18 hours ago
    I recently saw one of my former patients walking by Ala Moana Beach Park talking to herself, or to the voices she heard in her head.

    She was 55 the last time I saw her, living on the streets, never wanting to reveal her exact locale. She hadn’t come to the office in the past three years before that, and did not have a current address.

    When she was medicated by her psychiatrist, she would usually go to a shelter, and seem to be okay for a while. But part of her mental illness was so tied to hearing the voices that she would be upset when they were gone, which lead to her frequent relapses into worsening schizophrenia as soon as she stopped taking her medication regularly.

    Welcome sign to the Hawaii State Hospital located in Kaneohe. Hawaii. 24 nov 2014. photo Cory Lum
    We need more facilities like the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, where almost all the patients are placed by court order after getting in trouble with the law.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat
    She was never a danger to herself or to society, so she wasn’t kept in a mental institution. But that didn’t leave her many options.

    She wasn’t able to work, and couldn’t afford to get an apartment on her own. She didn’t have a permanent address, and that made it hard for her to collect her disability income on a regular basis. She didn’t want to stay in a shelter and wasn’t willing or able to follow the rules that were required.

    So where could she go?

    The days of locking such people up ended when President Ronald Reagan signed the Ominbus Budget Reconciliation Act in 1987 that ended the federal government’s role in the institutionalized care of the mentally ill.

    Block grants were given to the states, and the days of the “asylum” were over. Thousands of people were released into society as mental hospitals closed, with the focus on community-based care, rather than institutionalization.

    It may have seemed like a more humane way to treat the mentally ill, but was it?

  3. San Francisco elected a pro-housing mayor. Now what?

    This Medium piece gives several suggestions that address affordable housing, mainly by building more housing of all types. Obviously, the problems and suggestions may not be the same in Honolulu, but certain sections create the impression that similarities exist between the two cities. The Mayor and the person writing the piece seem to believe that housing shortage leads to increased housing prices, and I assume that’s true here as well.

  4. My sense is that high cost of housing is largely a supply-demand problem–namely, there is a lack of supply. Warren seems to agree, but her solution seems to rely on government for increasing the supply. That ideal doesn’t appeal to me, although I’m not completely closed to it. Tweaking incentives and removing disincentives for developers to increase the housing stock appeals to me more.

  5. The Great Housing Debate: A Profusion of Panaceas from Governing magazine.

    The author goes through a series of measures that have not been panaceas. The most promising solution he offers?

    I think it leads us to what Scott Wiener and other California legislators have been trying to do for the last several years, without success so far. That is to encourage density, even tall apartment buildings, within as much as a half-mile of transit stations. This legislation has been through several versions, and all of them would permit multi-unit buildings in some single-family neighborhoods, but the truth is that in most cities (not all) there is plenty of commercially zoned land that could absorb most of the density — vacant parcels, parking lots, abandoned strip malls, warehouses — land that is not offering what tax lawyers call “highest and best use.”

    Taking full advantage of this property would require taxing it at rates high enough to incentivize the owners either to build residential units on it or sell it to someone who would.

    He’s not sure whether higher taxation on these types properties would be able to become reality, but he does feel his suggestions provides a path to significant increase in the housing supply. (I think he agrees that lack of supply is the main problem for high housing costs.)

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