Councilman Sees Good vs. Evil in Current Rent Crisis
Nearly all discussions of the housing crisis in Alameda seem to rest squarely on the slippery shoulders of ambiguity. One of the most ambiguous terms is “affordable housing.” In the Bay Area the expression has become a cliché to be bandied about by sidewalk politicians, demagogues, populists and sensitive people.
Nothing serves to make this expression less trite; its buoyancy depends entirely on its abstruseness. To render this platitude less abstract, could someone please identify, unequivocally, for whom is this “affordable housing” destined for.
Should minimum wage earners, working a 40-hour week, be able to find “affordable housing” in Alameda? Is “affordable housing” earmarked for the indigent or the indolent? Can anyone demand “affordable housing” in order to boost his or her disposable income or discretionary spending? Is “affordable housing” in any city of your choice a Constitutional guarantee?
As one of the country’s sans-culottes could I randomly point to a map and demand “affordable housing” say in Pacific Heights, Carmel or Beverly Hills? And if so, how many square feet of living space should this “affordable housing” contain? Golden State Warrior star Steph Curry, just moved into an 8,000 square foot, $3.1 million, cottage in Walnut Creek; that is more than 10 times larger than the broom closet I pay $2,500 per month for. Is that “fair?”
And let’s save the issue of income inequalities for next time. Unless Alameda resumes piling dredgings onto more of its ecologically sensitive coastal shoals, the Island is not expanding.
Thanks to industrialization, Volkswagen diesels and people exhaling, global warming is rapidly levitating sea levels; our entire Island is slouching toward mudflat status — soon we will be trapping Dungeness crabs off our back porches.
Despite shrinkage, whenever a developer seeks approval to sandwich more housing on the Island and shoehorn more cars into the streets, he or she need only lard up the conversation with the “affordable housing” mantra; who can resist its plaintive siren call?
Has anyone flatly stated the target number of “affordable housing” units planned for Alameda?
Assuming some of this “affordable housing” is being made available via the rental market, what is Alameda doing to ensure that no more of it is falls into the rapacious hands of what City Councilman Tony Daysog refers to as “out-of-town landlords” who “have gone off the deep end with excessive rent increases.” In a recent commentary (“Councilman Pens ‘Tale of Two Alamedas’ on Rent,” Nov. 12), Daysog repeatedly excoriated nefarious “out-of-town landlords” and lauded “small mom-and-pop landlords.”
A career politician will never offend his (or her) constituents. Apparently, “small mom-and-pop landlords” are capitalists who, due to living in our Brigadoon, have never capitulated to the sins of simony. In his piece Daysog saluted “small mom-and-pop landlords” nine times, assuring us six times that it was the non-native, “out-of-town” Auslaenders who were ratcheting up the rents.
According to Daysog, small mom-and-pop landlords voluntarily cap their annual increases at eight percent, only six percent higher than the Fed’s targeted inflation rate, and just enough to effectively double rents every eight to nine years. Such moral restraint!
As Daysog observed, small mom-and-pop landlords are “people who get how the American system works” and know that “the American system is based on fairness.” So much for capitalism, free enterprise, the invisible hand, competition and fair market values.
No one is suggesting that a bureaucracy usurping the pricing of private property is expropriation by another means.
Like many Bay Area natives schooled by Robert Reich and company, Daysog uses platitudes like “reasonable amount” when referring to rent increases; this contrasts with another hollow expression: “excessive rent increases.”
Both are circular arguments or as the Romans would say, circulus in probando or what rhetoricians would call “begging the question.” We know that “reasonable rent increases” are OK because they are “reasonable” and that “excessive rent increases” and not OK because they are “excessive.” In fact, Daysog says the American system relies on “reasonableness.”
Strange that anyone would see the American economy as a “bidding war.” When an Alameda homeowner sells his or her private property, he or she is inwardly rooting for a frantic bidding war — 20 percent over list price is bragging rights at the punch bowl. When a landlord is renting, he or she should be morally or legally constrained to a “reasonable” or “fair” price or face opprobrium from some Robespierre at City Hall or an armchair liberal writing screed for local papers.
Europeans displaced the Ohlone in the late 18th century; presumably the Ohlone could not keep up with the rent increases or lacked sufficient fire power to repel the newcomers. With the exception of our firefighters, nearly everyone has an income that has lagged behind rising rents and home prices, especially the “excessive rent increases.”
Anyone who has indoor-living arrangements has essentially outbid someone else. Rent control is a good example of what John Stuart Mill called the “tyranny of the majority” — when “society is itself the tyrant, practicing a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression.”
Presently, the cost of “affordable housing” is slated to fall exclusively on landlords, or those whom Brian McGuire identifies as the idlers who “wait by the mailbox to profit off a 50-year housing shortage” (Mayor’s Performance Shows True Colors, Poor Leadership,” Nov. 12).
Daysog and I agree on one thing: “bring our city together again.” Rather than trampling on property rights and subjecting landlords to the tyranny of the majority, we should all equally share the cost of “affordable housing.” We should levy a per capita tax on every Alameda resident.
The revenue will be used exclusively to subsidize housing and to pay the battalion of bureaucrats that emerges to administer the “affordable housing” program. The Per Capita Tax Political Action Committee will have its first meeting tomorrow afternoon at the 1400 Club, get there early to have a seat.