(The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)
(The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Do progressive policies hinder affordable housing?

NIMBYs represent the biggest obstacle to providing affordable housing in urban areas.

At least that’s the argument put forth in a blog post on The New West, the official blog of the Western Political Science Association.

In his post, Jason McDaniel, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at San Francisco State University, examines how progressive movements have stifled development in liberal urban areas — particularly San Francisco.

In opposing new building and development, progressives invoke populist critiques of “luxury” development, arguing that it is “gentrification” that displaces existing tenants and corrodes the quality of existing communities. Moreover, progressives argue that such “luxury” development cannot possibly be a solution to the crisis of housing affordability because it increases the demand for high-priced housing. Only publicly subsidized “below-market rate” development can be truly affordable according to this perspective. Because of the populism at its core, the progressive ideological coalition sees the problem of housing as a crisis of displacement of existing tenants and disruption of existing neighborhoods, rather than a crisis of available housing that is affordable to all who want to live in San Francisco.

That city has been at the center of debate about how to best address affordable housing.

Writers at websites, such as CityLab, have argued NIMBY interests seeking to preserve historic neighborhoods have endorsed anti-growth policies making it impossible to provide the supply of affordable housing.

Essentially the argument is that those creating demand shouldn’t be blamed for the lack of housing. It’s the coalition that prevents denser development from happening in urban areas that are to blame. Similar debates have erupted in Washington D.C. and other cities that have been more heavily impacted by a relatively recent surge in desire for urban living.

Although Baltimore’s a long way from a housing crunch of this sort, it’s interesting because many of the same political dynamics are at play in the city, especially ascending neighborhoods.

In some cases those elements have banded together and already helped scuttle development projects, such as the 25th Street Station proposal.

As development along the Harbor continues, and the ripple effect spreads out to more neighborhoods, it’s not impossible to see greater battles about gentrification and affordable housing arising.

Some, like Baltimore-based writer D. Watkins,  argue that process has already started. 

My city is gone, my history depleted, ruined and undocumented. I don’t know this new Baltimore, it’s alien to me. Baltimore is Brooklyn and D.C. now. No, Baltimore is Chicago or New Orleans or any place where yuppie interests make black neighborhoods shrink like washed sweaters. A place where black history is bulldozed and replaced with Starbucks, Chipotles and Dog Parks.

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.

One comment

  1. Until you can actually go to school and come out of college paying your student loans and afford housing please don’t act like if you do it right everything will be alright. I have student loans and credit card debt from going to school. Its been 2 years since I finished and I’m working at $15 which is less than 1/2 of what I made before. I’ve always been employed just never able to make a living wage. I have lived in 7 states and I’m tired of moving every year. You would think I could find a living wage with my job skills and several degrees.

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