Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why housing costs so much (Hint: We're selfish)

None of this delay has cost the members of the Planning Commission a dime. That is why the delay is still continuing... Part of the reason [this situation comes about and continues] is that it is newcomers who have to pay outrageous prices for houses, while it is existing homeowners who vote for laws and policies that drive up housing costs by obstructing the building of new homes.

Those who already own their own homes are not hurt by soaring housing prices. In fact, they benefit when the value of their homes becomes several times what they originally paid for them.

Given this situation and these incentives, it is easy to understand why such things as planning commissions, "open space" laws and "historical preservation" policies proliferate. These roadblocks to building are eseentially idealistic-sounding ways of being completely selfish. Despite much liberal rhetoric about compassion for the poor, it is precisely in such overwhelmingly liberal enclaves as those in California where high housing costs resulting from restrictive laws have the heaviest burden on lower-income people....

All sorts of lofty talk about "open space" or "saving the green foothills" is used to disguise the plain fact that those who already have theirs want to keep other people out, especially other people not as upscale as themselves.

Ugly as such selfishness may be, it is no worse than the zeolotry of the nature cultists who join with them to make life miserable for thousands of other people in order to give themselves a cheap sense of importance that some confuse with idealism.
--Thomas Sowell, 'Time and Money and Housing," August 30, 2005

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