California Transit Hub Neighbourhoods May Soon Be Home to Non-Transit-Using Gentry

Stand Clear of the Yellow Line. The San Diego Trolley photo by Photos By Clark is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
California transit node. Soon to service a gentrified population that don't need it.

California is Ground Zero of America’s affordable housing crisis. Never mind just affordable housing, it is estimated to be short approximately a million houses that needed to be built over the last ten years in order to keep pace with swelling population.

State Legislature Bill 827 was sponsored by PLIMBY (Please, In My Back Yard), an activist group, who saw themselves in opposition to neighborhood preservationists commonly accused of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

By relaxing zoning near transit hubs across the state, the bill proposed that swaths of affordable housing could be built. That would allow those less affluent citizens, the greatest users of transit, to commute to jobs in a city center.

Alas (or so it seemed), Bill 827 failed at first reading. Try: Major California Housing Bill Dies In First Committee Hearing

It was opposed by neighborhood preservationists (a.k.a. NIMBYites). But, a significant number of low-income housing activists also opposed the bill on the grounds there was absolutely no guarantee that the relaxed zoning would result in construction of affordable housing. Now it seems the concerns of these activists was well-considered.

A study by the San Diego Union-Tribute reports that the free market is already focused on relaxed zoning which allows higher density around transit stops. Some communities have gone ahead with this kind of transit oriented zoning, without waiting for a statewide bill from the California Legislature.

As a consequence, housing around transit hubs is already being being snapped up by developers. It is not being bought up to be refurbished or replaced with new affordable housing. It will be developed for the ‘gentry’ who are not big users of transit. These developments threaten both workforce and non-workforce lower income residents who depend upon transit.

Non-workforce? It seems that with the enthusiastic pressuring of developers, the working poor are no longer a part of a city’s ‘workforce.’ This ‘workforce’ designation has been reassigned to a segment of the middle-class. Which segment is unclear, and varies from situation to situation. If it means those-seeking-housing-that-developers-would-like-to-serve-most-after-luxury-housing, it probably refers to those whose income falls between 80% and 120% of AMI (Area Median Income). This is particularly true if the need can trigger government tax credits, or other dollars into developer pockets.

So, read this word ‘workforce’ with a pinch of salt. Also treat with some caution statements about the laws of supply and demand. Do those laws mean that building an excess of housing will cause house prices to fall and make them more affordable? There is growing evidence that the housing market, for various reasons, does not function this way. Try: Need Affordable Housing? Don’t Look To Supply And Demand For Deliverance!

Finally, beyond hand-wringing about the high costs of land, the following article fails to mention methods for freezing or reducing land costs. Some of these methods, which can be employed by governments, would counter the arguments of developers (whose job it is to cry poor), that they can only possibly build non-affordable housing as the overall market heats up in city neighbourhoods close to transit access.

Read more in the San Diego Union-Tribute: Efforts to build housing around transit threaten to price out those most dependent on bus and rail