On this week's episode of Board of Supervisors Inside Baseball, we have a little bit of a scuffle happening between Supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener. After Wiener unleashed a barbed essay earlier this week in response to Campos's call for a possible moratorium on market-rate housing in the southern Mission.
Wiener referred to a "vocal and influential set of advocates pronouncing that we shouldn’t even bother to build market-produced housing, since, according to them, doing so won’t lower housing costs and may even raise housing costs." He goes point by point as to the supply-and-demand argument and concludes that, pragmatically speaking, SF doesn't have the money to subsidize the sheer amount of below-market-rate housing we'd need to fulfill the demand for it and we ultimately have to depend on market-driven developers to fulfill their affordable-housing requirements under city law.
Now Campos has lashed back with a full editorial in the Examiner, in which he says, among other things, "I have to admit I am surprised that a San Francisco Supervisor in 2015 is dusting off tired, warmed-over Milton Friedman tropes and trying to pass them off as smart housing policy."
And, here's some more:
If the invisible hand of simple supply-side economics worked, then the overwhelming demand for affordability would lead developers to build housing that actually meets the needs of the majority of our residents. Unfortunately, affordable housing is difficult to build and sometimes more expensive to finance than high profit pied-à-terres and luxury apartments. In the last 7 years we've built over 23,000 luxury units, and only 1,200 units for middle class families.
So despite the overwhelming demand, the majority of affordable housing in San Francisco was fought for by advocates and built only through government intervention. When free marketeers tell you that the only way to build affordable is by building luxury, don't believe them. Federal HUD housing and state-funded affordable projects make up the majority of our affordable housing stock, with a smaller portion built using city dollars and fees on market-rate housing. Housing advocates have said for decades that if we don't prioritize building affordable housing on San Francisco's limited land we'll face a serious housing crisis. After years of deregulation and general apathy for building affordable housing, here we are.
Free marketeers are claiming that if we build enough luxury housing it will eventually trickle down and turn into housing for the poor and middle class. This is the failed policy of Reaganomics at its worst. Housing isn't like most commodities. Consumers can abstain from many goods, but shelter, like food and water, is a basic human necessity. If you're currently seeking housing in our city and can't afford market rates you have three choices: be homeless, leave, or get on a long wait list for low-income housing.
Currently, however, a vast majority of SFist readers who bother replying to polls have voted in favor of building more market-rate housing as well as BMR housing, at least in this poll.