Monday, August 21, 2006
IN MY OPINION (Column)
The More Things Change...
By RAYMOND N. HAYNES
Sometimes, I think that I am repeating myself over and over again. It seems that my liberal friends in the Legislature keep doing the same things over and over again, and never realize that it is what they are doing that is hurting the rest of us.
The latest thing is affordable housing. About a month ago, playing off of the theme of her husband’s presidential campaign, Senator Hillary Clinton said, “It’s the American dream, stupid,” obviously implying that Democrats should focus on making sure people can buy a home-the “American dream”.
This has led to a lot of the Democrats in the Legislature trying to come up with ideas that would promote “affordable housing.” Two ideas were on the floor of the Legislature this week. SB 521 by Senator Tom Torlakson would allow Contra Costa County to assess an extra $1.00 per page on the recording of documents for real estate transactions to provide “seed money” for affordable housing in Contra Costa County.
SB 1432 by Senator Lowenthal would allow the use of the so-called Mello-Roos districts to assess fees on existing houses to provide incentives for “lower income housing.” SB 521 was expected to provide about $2 million per year for lower income housing. SB 1432 could provide untold millions to the rest of the state by taxing existing homeowners (without a vote) for lower income housing. SB 521 failed, but SB 1432 passed.
These bills are an example of the insanity that grips the left in our Legislature. In 1972, Neil Diamond wrote “I am, I said”, which starts out commenting on the weather, the flora, and the low housing prices in Los Angeles. In fact, 80 percent of the people in California could afford a median priced home in 1974.
Then Jerry Brown became Governor. In 1970, apartment owners in Los Angeles were offering free televisions to potential renters. In the next six years, the environuts took over the reins of California government, and through a series of changes in laws, regulations and tax assessments, cut down the number of houses and apartments in California.
By 1980, the Los Angeles City Council had imposed rent control and the voters of California enacted Proposition 13 because housing prices and rental rates skyrocketed as a result of these changes in the law. Today, only 17 percent of the people can afford a median priced home.
I understand that people don’t like growth. Freeways that once flowed freely get congested, neighborhoods change, and people now have neighbors where there were once just farms or trees. However, people have to live somewhere.
In 1980, the environuts enacted a “no-growth” initiative in Riverside, California. It stopped growth in Riverside, but caused an explosion of growth in the outlying areas, requiring people to drive further to work in order to have a place to live. The resulting traffic congestion and air pollution only complicated the problems of growth as people struggled to find a place to live and work. Today, the average new home has over $75,000 in fees to the government built into its price before anyone evens turns a shovel.
As Milton Friedman once said, “If you want less of something, tax it.” SB 521 and 1432 tax housing, which will lead to decreased supply of more expensive homes. So, the taxes that will go to providing “low income housing” will be ineffective.
As a state and a society, we are depriving our children and our grandchildren of an affordable place to live. We keep enacting new taxes and new regulations on new homes and new apartments, and then we wonder why the price of housing keeps going up. When our children are living with us until they retire, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company