Building new housing — in the places that really need it — is exceedingly difficult. This recent New York Times article by Conor Dougherty is a good example of that. It tells the story of a man named Steve Falk.
Steve was previously city manager for Lafayette, California (a suburb of San Francisco), but he eventually grew frustrated by his inability to affect positive change, and actually build things. He ended up resigning.
Below is a quote from the article. Steve is talking about housing affordability and supply.
“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” he told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”
Steve is right in this assertion. I think it was Charlie Munger who once said, “Show me an incentive and I’ll show you an outcome.”
I don’t know the specifics of the proposed 315 unit apartment building in Lafayette (perhaps it was ugly), but the article claims it was an as-of-right proposal close to a BART station (transit).
How does that turn into 0 units and numerous lawsuits, while we all continue to debate housing affordability? Something is broken.