[Citylab] In California, the debate between NIMBYs and YIMBYs—that’s Not In My Backyard and Yes In My Backyard, respectively—doesn’t usually involve actual backyards. It’s about housing: By one estimate, the state is short 3.5 million homes to accommodate current and projected demand. In cities like San Francisco, this gap has raised rents to some of the highest in the nation, fueling a homelessness problem that the United Nations recently labeled a human rights violation.
Mariner lives in a small town in the middle of corn fields. Even in his town house values are rising. Aside from stock market investment, houses are the most common investment for individuals. The day when housing was a practical necessity has become a day when the house is a safety net against old age and infirmity. This dilemma compounds itself as more and more profit in the US economy is banked by oligarchs while common salaries have languished for decades. It is difficult for the average individual to grow an estate value with the imbalance of investment vis-à-vis low salary. The only source for family security is the family home.
The unbalanced economy is not the only influence on the critical shortage of housing. As seniors live longer, the rollover of ownership to younger generations is delayed. The average lifespan of a citizen in 1900 was 47.3 years; the average in 2000 was 77.5; the average in 2018 was 78.7; in 2025 it will be 80. This increment suggests that for each calendar year more seniors will survive than the previous year! It is a popular point that there are more centenarians alive each year.
Demographic studies indicate that the US population is decreasing. Ironically, this does not help with housing because in a decade or two, the common age of the entire population will be close to retirement years – where house value is still the security blanket for post-retirement life.
Another issue is the lack of affordable housing for lower incomes. This is the most significant impact of the NIMBY attitude. Historically, less expensive neighborhoods could be found in the cities but gentrification has driven out low income individuals – and again NIMBY prevents a reintroduction of affordable housing. It should be noted that the common view of suburbia is not true any longer because the suburbs have absorbed citizens of every income level and every race as well.
Another factor is cost of living and upscale employment in places like tech centers and corporate home offices. Mariner noted in an earlier post that teachers in Silicon Valley could not afford to live near their schools. The impact is that the need for homes is uneven across the US as young people go where the jobs are.
The key requirement is for US federal and state governments to enact legislation that requires percentages of housing across income lines.
Housing is a growing problem today – not taking into account the issues of climate change. 2030 seems to be a target year for many issues not accounted for today in society, economics or government.
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