It should never have gotten this bad. Homelessness is solvable. Its primary driver is housing unaffordability (not a sudden recent increase in mental illness or substance use disorder, despite claims to the contrary), and so the solution has always been more housing, particularly for those who don’t currently have it. But California has allowed homelessness to metastasize over the past few decades. As the humanitarian crisis has gotten worse, it has become a political crisis. Homelessness is one of the major themes in this year’s campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a growing number of commentators have cited it as evidence that the “California dream” is dying.
Because Bay Area cities have failed to produce enough supply to keep up with population increases, lower and middle-income residents now have to compete for housing with the super-wealthy, whose ability to outbid everyone else continually forces prices up. As a result, homes in Berkeley sold for about 19 percent above asking price on average in the first three months of this year, the highest citywide average in the nation.
From the comments:
@Talbot The entire country’s population has boomed from 1970–up from 200MM to 330MM. Somehow other parts of the country have been able to keep up with the growth while California, one of the richest states in the courtly, can’t manage to build new housing. I’m an attorney who makes $350K a year, and I left the Bay Ara because felt like I couldn’t afford to live there anymore. It’s that bad. I would have gladly lived in a high rise condo if an affordable one were available, but local zoning laws didn’t allow them to be built. People in CA are stuck in the 1950’s mentality that density equals poverty. It’s as though they have never seen Europe or Manhattan.
I was visiting my son in LA about 3 weeks ago. The numbers of homeless people is my greatest takeaway from that trip. I’ve been to LA many times, but this was almost dystopian in breadth and scope. Whether it has anything to do with capitalism I’ll leave to other thinkers, but eyes don’t lie, and there is something radically wrong with a place where million dollar homes are 100 yards from homeless camps under almost every highway overpass.