Housing Policy is Economic Policy
The exorbitant cost of housing in the Bay Area feeds into the cost of everything else. Say you want to hire somebody here, to do anything — wait tables, teach in the schools, or even do construction building a new home. Well, that person needs to live somewhere. Either they’re going to pay rent, or they need to buy a place, or they need to commute in from some ridiculous distance, and pay for gas and wear on their vehicle.
Making better choices about balancing jobs and housing helps to not just bend the cost curve down on housing itself, but leads to a better standard of living across the board.
This is Economics 101 stuff. Currently a lot of our debate about housing policy is about “affordable housing”, which in legalese refers to units that have been set aside for special subsidies. Only people making under a certain income can get them, and they will probably spend years on a waiting list before they get the chance. You can’t make housing affordable, in the sense that normal people mean that, by throwing subsidies at the problem — the subsidies immediately get swallowed up by rising prices. It’s like a game of musical chairs, where people can bid money for a seat. Giving people extra money doesn’t let any more people sit down. You have to actually add more chairs.
Our goal should be that the median price for housing is affordable on the median income. We need to diversify the types of housing available, especially with apartments affordable to those on low incomes, and “missing middle” forms like duplexes and townhouses.