Why Can’t California Super-Government Pass Affordable Housing Crisis Bills?

view of California Senate from visitors' gallery
California State Senate Chamber, where majority of sitting members are Democrats.

In California, the Democratic Party owns veto-resistant super-majorities in both houses of congress, together with the governorship. American governments just don’t get any more powerful than this!

And yet, faced with perhaps the most pressing need for affordable housing in America, California seems unable to pass bills which offer important solutions for the affordable housing crisis. Why?

Three Theories:

  • American constitutional government has finally seized up completely
  • Democrats are selfish and/or corrupt NIMBYites
  • Housing Bills have been withheld because they are bad ideas

American constitutional government has finally seized up completely

Could that frightening thought possibly be true? Recent history has provided a worrisome example.

Remember President Trump’s campaign-promised southern border wall? Who could ever forget it? But the Republican Party did forget it, in spite of holding near absolute power over federal government — a majority in both Houses of Congress, together with the Presidency.

Instead of progressing uninterrupted from campaign promises through the triumph of the 2016 elections and onward to build a wall, the Republican Congress paused, presumably to bathe in the warmth of its almost unbridled power. After which it yawned, scratched its butt, fell asleep and did nothing.

Have Democrats succumbed to the same disease in the California Legislature? Are they super-class state legislative weight lifters, but too muscle-bound to get out of bed?

One journal is prepared to entertain the idea of an American legislature approaching paralysis. Read more in L.A. CURBED: The May Massacre Of California’s Housing Bills

Democrats are selfish and/or corrupt NIMBYites

The Washington Examiner smells two-faced liberals corrupted by self-interest or cronyism, preaching one thing and doing another. Their view: Democrats controlling the state government are themselves NIMBYites1, are married to NIMBYites, have best buddies who are NIMBYites, or own dogs who prefer not to bark at strangers. Read more in the Washington Examiner: NIMBY California Democrats

Housing Bills have been withheld because they are bad ideas

Our opinion? The Democratic party is neither prone to dozing away its moment of near absolute power, nor is it self-interested or corrupt.

Yes, the Democrat-controlled congress has sidelined legislation proposed to help solve the affordable housing crisis. The proposals are based on a viewpoint promoted by the housing industry — more building in neighbourhoods will create greater housing densities which in turn will lead to lower housing prices. This is an article of faith, not fact. It is founded on theories (not laws) of supply and demand formulated in a much simpler era some 250 years ago.

Sensible politicians should be cautious about buying into this view of how to go about building the amount of affordable housing that is needed in the state. Rather than being vilified for inaction, or for corrupt cronyism, the state government could well be praised for deferring legislation and examine the claim that allowing higher densities in residential neighbourhoods will produce more affordable housing.

There is certainly research evidence that increasing housing density does not drive down housing costs. Try: Just Build More Housing? These Days, The Idea Rules, But Without Clothes


  1. Urban residents who believe in change as long as it doesn’t happen in their neighbourhood. NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard


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