Perspective on Real Estate

October 17, 2002

October 23, 2002

October 30, 2002

America's finest city needs affordability

Beware a political cop-out concerning getting affordable homes and rentals on local marketplaces where it is desperately needed.

We claim that we are America's finest city; I suggest instead that we are really one of America's stupidest cities, because we have wasted our land and continue to waste it. A "City of Villages," I think not; rather a series of small towns with small, selfish minds linked together periodically by the Chargers or the Padres when they have their infrequent winning seasons.

When Sandag finally figured out that the projected population of our region was going to be less than previous projections, and they were surprised by this, I asked the head man -- a very good man -- why the surprise? After all, when people cannot afford to buy or rent, they leave or just do not take jobs here. When companies look for places to locate, why come to a place where their employees -- or the teachers of their employees' children, or the police or firemen who protect them -- cannot afford to live?

Of course the population projections have dropped, because common sense tells us they had to.

People and companies have many places to choose where to locate, places with sunshine, quality of life, fine educational systems and better infrastructure than we contain.

But it's not the projected population that should concern you -- it is the large present population that is deprived of any housing they can afford, including their graduating kids, their retired grandparents, the teachers of their kids, including college faculty. America's finest, come on now!

Neighborhood after neighborhood has been begging for the attention of politicians. The Sandag figures just gave more rationalization to public officials who have not the courage to comprehend the crisis of this situation.

The focus should be on now, not the future. The fire of frustration is lighted and we cannot risk its turning into a conflagration of unreasoning revolution. It calls for understanding how desperate certain constituencies are. These are not statistics, but people, humans, families who deserve all of our immediate attention and action. We are tens of thousands of dwelling units short now!

The other "fact" that grates my nerves is the questioning of density. "Since our population is going to grow by less (still it will be a lot, as 60 percent will be natural births over deaths), then we do not need the additional density," comes the simple reply -- filled with fiction and certainly not the way it is.

The truth is that the only way that we can hope to meet the needs of the present expanding priced-out marketplace is through far better use of available land. Any product's pricing can be assisted by making those who produce it more productive, including their raw materials. Land is the key component. The truth is that all other components have inflated in price, including materials, insurance and labor costs, plus profits and rentals along with them. One major cost has come down and that is the financing, which would ordinarily make the product cost less. However, this time it is outweighed by the other costs and price inflation.

The smart growth component dictates that land must be used more productively, and that communities which are the core for working employees who man so many of our necessary industries must get priority attention, at last. Otherwise we are stupid -- not dumb, for dumb is an affliction which strikes innocents. Stupid is what we are because we can make changes, can create truly intelligent growth, but instead we choose to fall back on the ambiguity of numbers, which keep changing all the time.

Let us treat the crisis as a human affliction not brought on by the victims, but the inattention of preoccupied political leaders and community planning groups which are comfortable in their neighborhoods and homes and do not give a moment's thought to the aspirations, needs and ethical overtones of their opposition to any cure for this disease of inattention.

The most evil thing there can be is the silence of "good people," no matter which neighborhood they are trying to protect. I fear ignorance, greed and deprivation more than any terrorist act. Give us the way toward wise growth, and decent attached housing which can be afforded and built immediately.

Goodkin has been a business ethicist and housing analyst since 1956. He may be reached at

October 17, 2002

October 23, 2002

October 30, 2002