Subsidized housing: Who is for it/against it?

HI All, Yesterday I attended a meeting in which residents of several
Bay Area counties gathered to discuss the current Bay Area land use
situation. This group can be described
as pro-local control of land use, anti-regionalisms, and anti-federalism. They are not interested in Plan Bay Area
unelected bureaucrats telling them what to do, or HUD imposing its new AFFH Act
(if you don’t know what that is, you will be surprised when it affects you), or
BARF using the courts to tell them what they can or cannot build.

The group’s disdain for BARF (Bay Area Renters Federation,
founded by Sonja Trauss, one of the panelist at the LPSF 2015 Tax Day, and a
very engaging person) was searing. Here
is the group’s point. Although local
neighborhood covenants would be infinitely preferable to zoning, today’s
California does not have that luxury.
The battle for control of turf has escalated to the point that zoning is
the new battle cry. Neighborhoods claim
they should decide what their living space looks like. Subsidized housing advocates claim neighborhoods
should not. The U.S. Supreme Court
agrees with the subsidized housing activists (Texas Department of Housing vs.
the Inclusive Community Project) and so does Obama and HUD (Affirmatively
Furthering Fair Housing Act).

A couple of attendees who reside in San Francisco reported
that a group of past City officials who side with the local control crowd is
forming and are getting ready to do some damage to the subsidized housing advocates.

So, why am I posting all this here? Because I am suggesting (as I have been doing
for a while) that LPSF develop some positions on this matter. To simply say “We are for the free market!”
or “We are opposed to zoning!” is irrelevant at this point. We no longer have even a semblance of a free
market in San Francisco, zoning is a reality, and the Brown Shirts from higher
up are serious about telling us exactly what our neighborhoods should look like. When we discuss ballot measures, in my view,
we should have more awareness of the many issues surrounding each measure. Same when we look at candidates, or at other

BTW, San Francisco has a high percentage of folks of Asian
descent. At the meeting the question was
raised whether to abide by the AFFH Act, the City will need to ship some of
these residents elsewhere, ship in more whites and blacks, prohibit any more
people of Asian descent from coming into the City, or what. This is the kind of stuff that the City and its residents will need to deal with.

Here is an SFGate article on the BARF lawsuit:


Hi Marcy,

  It's a shame these folks are choosing to side with NIMBYism over property rights. It isn't just "subsidized housing advocates", the Obama administration, and the Supreme Court who claim (when it suits them, apparently) that neighborhoods should not be able to veto projects -- libertarians say this, too (and more consistently).

  We believe people have the right to use their own property as they choose so long as they are not aggressing against others. As the longer story linked from the SFGate link you provided makes clear, the Lafayette city government interfered with this right, and apparently violated state law in the process:

The first case could center on the Homes at Deer Hill, a development that won approval from Lafayette’s city council last month. The project will bring 44 single-family homes, along with sports fields and a playground, to a grassy slope on Deer Hill Road, just north of Highway 24. When it’s built, the development will house far fewer people than the 315-unit moderate-income apartment complex that developer O’Brien Homes initially proposed for the site back in 2011, called the Terraces of Lafayette. With Deer Hill home prices ballparked at around $1.2 million, future residents will also be wealthier than the Terraces’ inhabitants, who would have paid around $2,100 per month in rent, according to the Contra Costa Times.

If Lafayette’s city council members had rejected the Homes at Deer Hill last month, they would have had to resume considering the old Terraces of Lafayette proposal, which the developer dropped around 2012 amid community opposition and delays in certification of its environmental impact report, according to Lafayette mayor Brandt Andersson. In an August 6 letter to the mayor and city council urging them to reject Deer Hill, SFBARF founder Sonja Trauss threatened to sue if the project won approval. “Should the City Council decide to prioritize homeowners’ aesthetic preferences over the needs of its service workforce,” wrote Trauss, “we will not hesitate to take legal action to defend the housing policies of this state.”

The basis for a lawsuit comes from 1982's Housing Accountability Act, a measure that California passed as a counterweight to municipalities’ natural NIMBY tendencies. When a proposed development includes units affordable to low- and moderate-income households (and meets zoning requirements), the law forbids a jurisdiction from denying approval, or reducing a project’s density, unless it threatens health and safety in demonstrable ways.


  If SFBARF does sue the municipality to allow the originally proposed project to be built (and assuming the developer would really rather build 315 apartments than 44 single family homes and a sports field and playground), it seems clear that the libertarian position would be to support the lawsuit.

Love & Liberty,
                               ((( starchild )))

Hi Starchild,

Thank you for your views. I appreciate them and understand them. My reason for reporting what transpired at the meeting I attended was to note that there are strong voices out there that are not at all pleased, and are taking action.

Unlike us all at LPSF, these people are not talking generalities -- liberty, property rights, NIMBYism. They are talking specifics -- the huge percentage of land owned or controlled by government (in the case of San Francisco, 20% of land is City owned, and tons more controlled by the City through easements); the federal AFFH Act; the overturning by Supervisors, Councilmembers, and other government bodies, of zoning rules put in place by city residents. The meeting attendees ran the spectrum from left of left progressives to ultra conservatives, to libertarian.

All I am suggesting is that LPSF's tradition of quickly eyeballing situations and declaring them libertarian or non-libertarian -- thereby ending all consideration of possible repercussions of the situations -- might be doing us all a disservice. Indeed, we are all busy volunteers. So who has time to read all 150 pages of HUD's AFFH Act? Who has time to study how our local decisions facilitate the implementation of federal housing mandates, such as through, 1) the high percentage of government-owned or controlled property, 2) the expansion of housing subsidies to middle income families (this year's Proposition K), or 3) the considerable reliance on HUD block grants to build subsidized housing (the assumption behind last year's Proposition K).

As an aside, I am personally not singling out BARF. Given that LPSF (including me) knows and admires Sonja, I am only reporting that BARF is viewed by some people as an intended or unintended facilitator of the unholy alliance between developers' thirst for money, politicians' thirst for power, and voters' unquenchable thirst for subsidies, all likely to result in a near demise of the realities behind LPSF's sound bites of liberty and property rights.

Again, my intension is only to report and to suggest we take a bit more time considering what we stand for.



Hi Starchild and All,

By sheer coincidence, just after I posted the email below, I went to the LPSF Facebook Group to see what Matt Murphy (who used to be LPSF Secretary) had to say on his post.

To my surprise, Matt's post was about BARF and the organizations consideration of supporting legislation such as California SB1.

For those who do not recall what SB1 entails, this bill was introduced by the California legislature to facilitate the taking of private property so as to put it to "more efficient economic use." SB1 is the bill that we at LPSF spoke out so strongly against; especially the bill's redefinition of "blight," which declares private property blighted and therefore subject to eminent domain if the property is not being used in a "productive way," no matter how unblighted the property might be under the old definition of blight.

Matt seems to agree with Starchild that alliances with other groups is a good thing, so as to give us an opportunity to exchange communication with them. I have cut and pasted Matt's post below, since a lot of you do not use Facebook.


"I'm going to share a positive development I'm proud of helping create. The SFBARF Twitter account (Sonja, most likely) tweeted something about reforming the legislative definition of blight:
Sensing an opportunity to show just how bad the implications of that definition really are, I dropped some details of Senate Bill 1:

The rage it elicited was palpable and articulate:
The money shot is the last tweet, which reads:
"@SFyimby: News flash - not only does law protect property values, it can take property that isn't appreciating"

The link in the tweet is a screen cap of the legislative analysis for SB 1. I am really proud of this, because now we have a group of left-leaning folks, with a leader who's motivated, mad as hell, and has a now-deepened distrust of the government. She has a popular cause and a credibility with her base that my direct messaging lacks, so the amplification there is a definite win.

My take: being a libertarian here, you'll often find you're dealing with people who have at least partially overlapping aims. The hard part is trying to impress upon them that government isn't their friends. The work to effectively cite a primary source is likely to be well worth it. Many of these folks reject libertarian values and won't listen to the opinions of writers sympathetic to us. The shock of the awful details of these laws/rules can soften them up."