Opinion: Solving The Affordable Housing Crisis Requires Bad Planning

Santa Ana, California photo by Jasperdo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Santa Ana City Hall, where good planning decisions are being made far, far too slowly.

We take our hats off to the commitment, enthusiasm and admirable intentions of Mayor Michele Martinez, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Santa Ana, Orange County, California and her op-ed article in the VOICE of OC: Martinez: Solving The Housing Crisis Requires Good Planning (link below).

However, based upon her well-reasoned explanations for the process of building the best possible communities, we believe the solution to the affordable housing crisis is not good planning implemented at the municipal and regional level, but by bad planning at the state and federal level, and conditionally imposed on local governments.

First, the affordable housing crisis is a major health crisis, literally a life or death crisis for those who cannot afford shelter. It is not a ‘tall building blocking the sun’ crisis, or a ‘weird people I don’t know moving in down the block’ crisis.

Let us, for the length of this article, and in the life or death interest of those who cannot afford shelter, declare a ‘war on unaffordability’. Like all wars, this is a war that will not be won without some sacrifice.

What will be sacrificed? Step outside your neighbourhood door, and drink in the character. The character of this exact moment in time will be gone soon, a necessary sacrifice in the war against unaffordability. Sun shining brightly on your garden today? Perhaps tomorrow that will be gone too, blocked by a high-rise tower erected in the war against unaffordability.

Mayor Martinez lovingly details all the important features of good planning, including the glories of environmental reviews which ensure that every community will be the best it possibly can be. Of course, she is rueful about those community members who misuse environmental review in the name of preserving neighbourhood character, which features a quality of life that was always better yesterday. But (sigh) what can you do about some people?

Bad planning is what you can do.

Fortunately, some of this bad planning is already creeping into existence at the state level, in Massachusetts and Connecticut for example. Bad planning allows housing densities without reference to local zoning. Bad planning pays absolutely no attention to prejudice or neighbourhood character. Bad planning is dedicated to solving a major health crisis, fighting a war against unaffordability, getting the job done without reference to sunshine hours enjoyed by back garden seedlings.

Mayor Martinez, and particularly your minority (hopefully) of foot-dragging NIMBYite constituents, stop burnishing the image of good planning. By all means attempt it. But make it work quickly or get off the pot. Otherwise, in the war against unaffordability, bad planning may soon be coming to a neighbourhood near you!

Read more in the VOICE of OC:  Martinez: Solving The Housing Crisis Requires Good Planning



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