A Few Hard Truths for “Progressives” Who Oppose Housing in California

A Concerned Citizen
5 min readJan 31, 2020
Manhattan Beach, California: a place we cannot afford to live. Photo by rubixcuben, licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the wake of California’s landmark housing legislation SB-50 dying in the state legislature, I want to offer a few blunt, late-night hard truths about the housing crisis here in California.

These truths are oriented toward my progressive friends who continue to oppose YIMBYism and zoning reform, despite significant evidence supporting these methods as a means to solve this crisis — and yes, even help low-income renters.

1. Private developers building market-rate housing has to be a part of the solution to the housing crisis in California.

Any progressive who is serious about solving our housing crisis needs to find a way to swallow this bitter pill.

As an unabashed, bleeding heart liberal, I would love to build 3 million new 100% subsidized affordable homes. I would love to repeal Prop 13 and raise property taxes to get the state funds to do it.

But in a state that can’t even pass a single-payer healthcare bill, in a country that vilifies raising taxes (and then mischaracterizes the aforementioned state as wildly liberal), that’s just not even remotely politically realistic.

The housing shortage is real, and I’m tired of hearing supposedly progressive activists use developers and market-rate housing as slurs when we literally will not solve this crisis without some private developers building some more market-rate housing.

Even if we were to raise the approximately $1.5 Trillion tax dollars to build the needed 3 million units exclusively as subsidized affordable housing, neighborhoods would still likely object to the construction of that affordable housing in their backyard. So tax dollars alone won’t solve the housing crisis. Let’s at least acknowledge that hard truth.

2. Some idiot building a skyscraper downtown and then overpricing its penthouse is not proof of anything related to the housing crisis.

A penthouse being vacant while we have unhoused neighbors in our streets makes for powerful political imagery. Progressive activists often cite such anecdotes to justify the obstruction of any new housing.

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A Concerned Citizen

Publishing thoughts and insights related to local, state (California), national, and global politics. All opinions are my own.