What made you a leftist?

This is a really good overview and introduction to the nationwide housing crisis.

The piece points out that high housing costs are trapping Millennials in our parents’ basements well into our 30s.

One problem with living with your parents longer is that your parents often don’t live in so-called “high-opportunity zones.” In this way, this underappreciated way, imo, the now-national affordable housing crisis is stymying economic growth as capable people remain underutilized in their parents’ basements.

This is certainly the case for me. Now, Huntsville, Alabama isn’t exactly coal country in terms of economic opportunity. But for a government-hating writer it kind of is. When my peers who grew up in the Bay Area lose their job or housing they get to move back home without losing access to their professional network and job market. That’s not a privilege I have. Which makes everything more stressful and precarious than it would be were housing abundant. How much productivity do I lose every month worrying about having to move home? How much do people lose who don’t even have that option? I’m tremendously privileged in that moving home is my worst-case likely scenario.

But it pisses me off that San Francisco is the nation’s most important and fastest growing economy and we’re strangling our productivity by cowtowing to landowners.

The authors also make the point that “Affordable housing policy favors homeowners over renters.” On Twitter today someone asked “what made you a leftist?” For me it brought me out of naive conservatism and libertarianism to see how often policy favors the more-powerful over the less-powerful. White over POC. Men over women. Rich over poor. Is there a better example than the MID? I mean there are so many examples.

The thing about the housing crisis is that it’s neither efficient toward innovation and prosperity nor is it fair and equitable. I became more of a leftist (I’m still a libertarian) when I began growing more concerned with what’s fair and less concerned with what’s efficient for economic growth. High growth isn’t giving us the things we really want right now: Stability, rising wages for the bottom half, functional social safety nets, marriage and family for those who want it. High growth isn’t giving us the things we really want right now mostly because the strong are using government to fuck the weaker over.

But whether you favor efficiency or fairness, you should hate zoning. The only people who shouldn’t are Boomer homeowners who profit from it.

I should wrap this up. It’s a good article. Check it out. And if you haven’t read the original “welcome to the housing crisis” post yet, you should.


  1. Nick Weininger

    Do you know of a good piece that puts this in international context? Because it seems like the whole Anglosphere, at least, has this same problem. Toronto and Vancouver and London and Sydney and Auckland have all gotten ridiculously expensive too, with similar bad effects on efficiency and fairness, but it’s not clear how similar their policy regimes or histories are.

  2. Weems

    How did Atwood go from activist opposed to status quo to activist in support of NIMBY pro-status quo 🙁

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