Making it fit

Housing crisis triggers new calls to legalize and build more granny units

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joe@sfbg.com

San Francisco's overheating housing market has polarized the city. While progressive activists push to protect rent-controlled apartments and encourage construction of new below-market-rate housing, moderates, Realtors, and developers say any new housing helps keep prices in check, calling on the city to build 5,000 units per year.

But there is a hidden side to the housing issue in San Francisco, one that offers both complex challenges and enormous potential as a source of housing for low-income city residents, and it's getting a fresh look with desperate eyes.

Secondary units — also known as granny flats or in-law housing — dot the city by the thousands, and are for the most part illegal. They're tucked behind garages, in basements, or in backyards, most of them single serving sized and largely ignored.

Such units are legal under California law, and the reasons they're quasi-legal in San Francisco are complex. It mostly boils down to the fact that often these units aren't up to Building or Planning codes, but there have also been decisions to deliberately limit density in some neighborhoods, sometimes driven by concerns about more competition for street parking spaces.

Tenants in such units can be reluctant to report housing code violations for fear of losing cheap apartments in this rapidly gentrifying city, even if that means living in substandard housing. And the owners of those units often can't afford to bring them up to code or pay the fines. It remains an underground industry with few watchdogs.

Caught between conflicting realities of housing shortages, poverty, and safety, the city has largely turned a blind eye to in-law units, adopting what housing advocates call a "don't ask, don't tell" policy around inspecting in-law units. Now that may change.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and Sup. Scott Wiener have plans in the works that could spur development of secondary units in the city. San Francisco has been there and done that though, and the bodies of failed past granny flat campaigns litter the political wasteland.

"In-law legalization has been for a lot of housing advocates the holy grail, but for a lot of politicians, it's been a third rail," said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, a nonprofit group that advocates for a more walkable, livable San Francisco.

Despite the many failed jump starts over the years, Radulovich sees hope in the prospects of legalizing more secondary units because "it's a good, cheap, and green way to add housing."

 

BUILD SMALL

So what's different now? First off, unlike past efforts, the politicians involved are taking some small but significant steps.

Wiener's plan could directly spur the creation of new secondary units, but it's limited to only the Castro District. It basically lifts caps on the number of units that can be built in a single residence, waiving some density and other Planning Code requirements.

Wiener views his plan as a pilot program. "I decided to try a more limited geographic area to show that it can work," he told us, saying that the past failed campaigns tried to force the issue citywide.

The Castro is a prime candidate for more affordable housing. The neighborhood has many tenants who are single, Wiener said. And as gentrification slammed the Castro, the vulnerable were hurt as well. Jeremy Mykaels, a 17-year Castro tenant living with AIDS, recently fought back an Ellis Act eviction that would have cost him his home.

"I am not looking for pity," Mykaels wrote on his website, addressing his eviction. "I just want to shed a light on a growing problem in this city for many senior and disabled tenants like myself."

Comments

for the housing shortage than endless new regulations added onto the rent ordinance which only have the effect of driving more landlords to Ellis.

Wiener really is the only creative and independent thinker on the board right now, although Farrell isn't bad.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

control if wiener actually wants to see them rented out rather than just AirBnB'ed or otherwise used for temporary occupation.

A single family house that is currently exempt from rent control would become under rent control (both units) if and when an in-law is created, legal or illegal.

So it is a huge impediment unless exemption is granted, and I hope Wiener understands this. Otherwise, it's a great idea.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

Political moderates, realtors and developers lie when they say “ … any new housing helps keep prices in check.” New housing stock production costs depend on various inputs including but not limited to materials and labor that figure into the cost-per-square-foot, that are variable and that follow wild, increasing Neo-liberal market trends independent to supply-demand. Unlike labor rate costs, housing costs are not regulated. The legal US labor rate is minimum $7.50-hourly. No such standard exists for housing and is a contributor to increasing inequality and decreasing quality of life.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

Political moderates, realtors and developers lie when they say “ … any new housing helps keep prices in check.” New housing stock production costs depend on various inputs including but not limited to materials and labor that figure into the cost-per-square-foot, that are variable and that follow wild, increasing Neo-liberal market trends independent to supply-demand. Unlike labor rate costs, housing costs are not regulated. The legal US labor rate is minimum $7.50-hourly. No such standard exists for housing and is a contributor to increasing inequality and decreasing quality of life.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

Political moderates, realtors and developers lie when they say “ … any new housing helps keep prices in check.” New housing stock production costs depend on various inputs including but not limited to materials and labor that figure into the cost-per-square-foot, that are variable and that follow wild, increasing Neo-liberal market trends independent to supply-demand. Unlike labor rate costs, housing costs are not regulated. The legal US labor rate is minimum $7.50-hourly. No such standard exists for housing and is a contributor to increasing inequality and decreasing quality of life.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

"We have to fix the supply problem," SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf wrote in a recent article for The Atlantic."

Gabriel Metcalf and Saul Bloom should take their agendas down to the south bay since that's where most of SF's "housing crisis" originated. It's the towns of Cupertino, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Redwood City and north San Jose that have added hundreds of thousands of jobs over the past 25 years but haven't built (hardly) any housing units near them to match the job increases. It's the employees of Yahoo (N. San Jose), Google (Mountain View), Apple (Cupertino), HP (Palo Alto), Oracle (Redwood City) and Facebook (Menlo Park) that are causing the displacement and skyrocketing rents in SF and the entire Bay Area.

If every company larger than 1,000 employees was commited (or forced) to helping construct housing for 50% of their employees to live within 5 miles of the offices, the "housing crisis" in SF would be over immediately. And the roads would be far less congested, with lower air pollution levels and fitter employees who would often walk or ride a bike to work.

On the issue of illegal in-laws, the main reason current "illegal" in-laws have lower rents is because landlords want to help keep them off the city's radar. With lower rents offered, tenants don't complain about various housing issues because they'll be evicted if the city finds out about the illegal units. As soon as the units are legalized, the rents will be just as high as comparable units since they will have lost the stigma of outlaw status. Landlords aren't charities. Their job is to get as much rent from tenants as possible. If these units are legalized, we might see another wave of evictions as landlords try to replace the existing tenants in those units with higher paying versions.

And Saul Bloom's assertion that Lennar is paying $400,000 for construction costs to build current units sounds laughable. Maybe that's what they're telling him and he believes them, but the current cost of construction for moderately dense housing in the Bay Area is about $150-$225 a square foot, depending on ammenities. So a 1,000 square foot condo box costs about $175,000 in construction costs, or probably closer to $150,000 in the Bayview since the units won't be as upscale as units built for nicer neighborhoods. In the few years I've worked in the construction business I've never heard of Saul Bloom, so I'm not sure why the SFBG thinks he's an expert on the subject of construction costs. Maybe Saul Bloom and the SFBG should read Lennar's current financial statements to get a better idea of just how much money can be made in the construction business.

Metcalf and Radulovich moved to the Mission early on before its massive gentrification was in high gear, indirectly helping to push out exisiting lower-income tenants and indirectly contributing to Ellis and OMI evictions that followed as speculators raced to convert the lower-income residents with "new and improved," higher income versions. They both push for "pretty streets," better transit and more bike facilities that are some of the main tools used to help gentrify neighborhoods, driving up rents and house prices for everyone. And they both support bond financing to pay for these gentrifying tools (the $350 million pothole and smooth bike pavement bond comes to mind) that benefit the 1%ers who collect all that lucrative interest paid on the bonds. Why the SFBG continues to quote and feature them in their articles says more about the SFBG's gentrifying housing agenda (or its lack of awareness about same) than anything they to have to say about housing development or affordability.

Why doesn't the SFBG do a story about the number of housing units that are zoned for ownership occupancy but are owned by speculators, or the number of housing units that are owned as pied-a-terres? If those thousands (tens of thousands?) of units were put back on the market for residents to purchase, the price of housing would decline.

The private market can't solve any of the Bay Area's housing affordability problems since they cater their projects to the wealthiest renters and buyers, where profit margins are highest. These new, higher-income residents then help gentrify poorer and middle-income neighborhoods when they move into the newly constructed buildings, which in turn attracts more higher-income residents to the area, forcing exisiting residents out of the city to places like west Oakland and the central valley.

Cities need to start building housing units for their residents at all income levels. Cities need to start pushing back at state and federal politicians who encourage housing speculators and landlords with very lucrative tax subsidies. And residents need to start voting out politicians who are good with the "housing affordability" lip-service, but who have done nothing meaningful while rents and housing prices zoom sky-high. Profit-motivated construction companies and self-serving gentrifiers like SPUR and Livable City have not, and will not, help solve any of the Bay Area's severe housing crisis.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

is ridiculous to ask Google to build homes in MV. Moreover none of us should be in the business of telling people where they must live.

Our homes are expensive for one reason only. Restrictive land use regulations. If you plot home prices against the strictness of land use rules, it is an almost perfect correlation.

there's your answer right there. But most politicians own homes and so do not want more supply, because that would dampen their RE appreciation.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

So people camping in the park is actually a brave end run around overly restrictive land use policies.

By George, I think you might have something here, Guest.

Posted by pete moss on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 7:29 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

He wants us to all live in City Owned housing. Because the San Francisco Housing Authority is such a shining example of a well-run government bureaucracy and produces such enviable living situations, we all can enjoy a similar standard of living.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

...low income residents. Once a government program serves all income levels (such as Social Security or Medicare) the program achieves a much higher service quality because wealthy people who have a personal stake in the outcome both defend the program and demand continued improvements in it.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

That worked out so well in Eastern Europe. Have you seen the old towers in East Berlin that the middle class lived in?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

The United States is not.

(At least, not yet...)

Universal health care works in western electoral republics, and so can universal housing.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

A few years ago, I was reading an article about how the old apartment blocks of East Berlin were coming back in style and in demand. They may not have been the prettiest architecturally, but they're perfectly functional. And in a housing crunch situation, people are happy to have one of those apartments.

As for the centralized police state thing, I think we're further along than you think. The Stasi had nothing on the NSA. And it's not just a matter of surveillance. We actually have more people per capita in prison than any of those old Eastern European states. That includes the feared Soviet gulag system, with the exception of a few years in the 1930s during the height of the Stalinist purges. We only think we're free. And that, perhaps, is the worst part of it. As Goethe said, "None are more hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free."

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

The Stasi had better uniforms than the NSA.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 11:01 pm

...European states was complete top down centrally controlled economics, logistics and policing.

The U.S. is rapidly -becoming- a fascist police state, but it is not a top down centralized economy. Universal housing would be administered by states and municipalities here, and that would make a major difference in the success of implementation.

Posted by Erici Brooks on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

Central planning and all. You might argue that it was *because* of central planning that the housing part actually worked pretty well. I'm not certain that a mishmash of states and municipalities would do as well, actually. Still, I'm a supporter of public housing. It's better than subsidizing the rentier class with public money, and better still than doing nothing at all.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 11:40 pm

You have *got* to be trolling me. Please tell me that you are trolling me. Because your vision of Utopia can't be living in six story walkup with no hot water and intermittent heat and electricity. Even SFPH residents have it better than that.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:50 am

See my response to Lucretia, but you guys have some serious misconceptions. No hot water and intermittent heat and electricity is not the norm. No elevators are not the norm in multi-story towers. It *may* be the norm in 5-6 story older European buildings, but...
1. That's not what we're talking about. I thought we're talking about larger buildings
2. That has nothing to do with socialism. In fact, most 5-6 story walkups were built under capitalism, and exist even in European countries that never went through a period of socialism.
3. Walking up to the 5th or 6th floor is actually pretty good for you. Who needs a stairmaster? I've done it. It's tedious at first, but it's a breeze after a while.

Interesting you mentioned that, btw, because I do have an elevator in my building. But the agent who showed it to us didn't use it -he said that he never takes the elevator. I thought it was odd at first, but then I decided to start doing it myself. Now I don't even think about using the elevator. After a while, it gets ridiculously easy.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 1:43 am

So your solution to the shortage of housing in San Francisco is to nationalize it? Just so I understand where you are going here. You want the government to seize everyone's building and reapportion it based on need. Do you propose that we do this just in San Francisco or nationwide? How well do you this idea polls?

Serious ideas only, please.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 9:06 am
Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 9:46 am

Are you and Greg the same guy? I want to hear what he has to say about this.

I do appreciate your ideas though and think that they could compliment for-profit development.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 10:59 am

See my response to Racer Gibberish's comment. I think Eric and and I are both in favor of mixed economies.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 11:13 am

Two ineffectual Marxists agree on something! Break out the champagne!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 11:31 am

That fact that mixed economy and Marxism seem identical to you, shows how far off on the reactionary right you are.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 11:41 am

Explain your idolization of Hugo Chavez and your ignorance of the shortages and runaway inflation afflicting Venezuela.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

Venezuela is a mixed economy. 70% of the economy is still under the control of the private sector, which is where the shortages are coming from. The government has made tremendous strides in improving real living standards, poverty reduction, and inequality. That's essentially why I support them (idolize is a loaded term). I support them because the bottom line for me is how well people live, and Chavismo has delivered improvement in living standards in spades. But they have a long way to go. With much of the wealth and economy still in the hands of the opposition, the Venezuelan economy could do with a lot more socialization.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

I simply regularly cite actual facts about how Chavez's policies (which combine both socialist and anarchist strategies) have been incredibly successful in raising the standard of living of the poor in Venezuela, creating a much better social value system and structure in Venezuela, and helping to pull the entire continent of South America out from under the jack boot of the U.S. empire and the World Bank, IMF, IADB, etc.

If Obama were doing what Chavez did, he would be the most popular U.S. president is history.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

Marx was brilliant, and contributed foundationally to economics.

But his political and governance ideas were naive and far too focused on taking power through revolution, instead of building it from below through more organic anarchistic means.

I broke out laughing when I read the Communist Manifesto.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

Anarchist governance ideas aren't naive? LOL

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

They are working in many places quite well. Basque Spain, Brazil (MST), Zapatista territory, Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina (co-op factory take-overs), co-ops and cooperative communities all over the U.S. The anarchist structured 1999 WTO protest in Seattle was one of the most successful grassroots actions in human history.

(Interesting that Spanish speaking countries are so heavily represented.)

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

Venezuela has widespread shortages, 50% annual inflation, and one of the highest murder rates in the world. Anarchist governance is working great there!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

opponents artificially hoarding their products to create those shortages

and the poor of Venezuela are 20% better off now than they were before the Bolivarian revolution

Posted by lkdsvfj on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

Can I get any narrower?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

Every reasonable person believes in mixed economies.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 11:52 am

"But what I'm saying is that the housing was actually pretty good
Central planning and all."

LOL. Greg, I promise you I have spent a lot more time staying in Soviet Empire apartment blocks than you.

The buildings suck, and are falling down after thirty years of use.

You see - the buildings were built according to a quota (e.g. your team will build ten apartment buildings this quarter), without regard to quality. As long as the building met the specified physical norms, it passed.

People who currently live in those buildings would laugh at you if you said they were "high quality".

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 8:03 am

Because that was the percentage of East Germans who were. Have you ever visited one of the Soviet-era apartment buildings in East Germany after reunification because I have - they didn't have central hot water, heat or elevators - yeah, they were amazing.

Also - do you ever think or research before you make your wildly off-base claims?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:02 am

Not to defend any police state, past or present, but I think it's important to get our facts straight.

First of all, it's misleading, to say the least, to go by the number of "informants." Modern surveillance states don't need as many human informants when they can already find out anything and everything they need to know about anyone, electronically. You might as well ask what percentage of electronic communications did the Stasi monitor? Or perhaps the relative *budget* that East Germany spent vs. the US on intelligence. I don't think we'd come out looking too favorably.

But even by your (extremely faulty) metric, you're not even close to accurate.
According to Wiki, the Stasi employed 90,000 people out of a population of 16.1 million in 1990.

About 174,000 informants have been indentified, which amounts to 1% of the population, so you're off by a factor of 25.

A few individuals have made unsubstantiated claims that the true number is closer to 500,000, or 3% of the population. Even then you'd be off by an order of magnitude. And if "occasional informants" are included, the claim (again, unsubstantiated) is that it's close to 2 million (or 12% of the population). Even if you take the wildest, craziest, most politically biased ax-grinding agenda estimate... you're still off by a factor of 2. Personally, I don't put much stock into the crazy end of the conspiracy-theory scale for several reasons:
1. They're completely without evidence. There are those who also claim Stalin murdered 60 million (or a whopping 40% of the Soviet population, which is absurdly high). Personally I like to have a fact-based interpretation of history.
2. What counts as an "occasional informant?" If you respond to one of those stupid "If you see something, say something" signs they put all over the airports and in places like Times Square to instill fear in the population, does that make you an NSA informant? If so, then we may well have 1 in 4 Americans who act as informants for government spying operations.

What about the final effects of the police state? Not to minimize the surveillance itself, because surveillance is in and of itself a form of repression (whether you're talking about the Eastern Block or the modern surveillance state of the USA); but just as importantly, are the number of people living in total deprivation of freedom (as in, incarceration). In that respect, the US clearly "outperforms" even the worst of the worst -only in a few of the very worst years of Stalinist repression did the Soviet per capita incarceration rate exceed the US per capita incarceration rate.

Any way you slice it, Lucretia, the US doesn't come out looking very good.

As for basing your opinions based on one tiny piece of anecdotal evidence, anyone can do that. That's easier than facing the reality of your misconceptions. As far as your brief visit... I don't want to go too deep into my own history and that of my family... but suffice it to say that I know what I'm talking about a bit more than you do if you're basing your opinions on one post-reunification visit.

Stipulating for a second that you're not making up your anecdote out of whole cloth, there can be a couple explanations for what you observed:

1. You just got lucky to find one building that gave you confirmation bias, because I can assure you that even in the least developed Eastern Block countries, to say nothing of the GDR, multi-story towers with no elevators, no heat, and no hot water were absolutely NOT the norm. Not even close.

2. Some of those buildings have fallen into neglect in the wake of the fall of communism. I have seen that happen. The fall of communism hasn't been good for many. Think about it -life expectancy in Russia and many of the former Soviet republics has fallen by a whopping 10 years since the fall of communism. In some cases, conditions of the buildings reflects the conditions of the people living under the wreckage of capitalism. One person I know, revisiting their childhood home in one of these countries, remarked with sadness "yeah, this used to be a place fit for human habitation." OTOH, I've also seen others that are quite decent. In Berlin in particular, there's a problem with rising housing costs, and a lot of people are taking a second look at some of these old communist towers. A lot of them are being restored to their former glory because they actually represent a pretty good solution to the housing crunch.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 1:32 am

"Some of those buildings have fallen into neglect in the wake of the fall of communism."

LOL. The apartment buildings sucked when they were built - the increasing age of the buildings just makes them suck more.

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

They were compelled to inform on their friends and neighbors. The opening of the archives revealed the stark fact that around 25% of the DDR acted as informants at one time or another. I am not a fan of NSA surveillance methods in general but they pale in comparison to the actions of the Stasi and other eastern European secret services. NSA is relying almost exclusively on SIGINT while Stasi relied almost exclusively on HUMINT. They're two totally different things collected in entirely different ways.

And yes, Soviet-built apartment buildings sucked. They were poorly built, lacked modern conveniences and at soon as most residents could move out they did. It's disgusting you're spending your time extolling the virtues of those horrible monstrosities. You also clearly haven't spent time in the former DDR because most of them were torn down soon after reunification.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

Even the very wildest conspiracy theorists claim numbers that are much lower than yours about the number of informants. And like I said, modern surveillance states don't need as much human intelligence. The US government already knows far more about you than the Stasi could ever dream of. I'm no fan of the Stasi, but they pale in comparison to the NSA.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

"That Is Simply Due To The Fact That The Projects Are Only For
...low income residents. Once a government program serves all income levels (such as Social Security or Medicare) the program achieves a much higher service quality because wealthy people who have a personal stake in the outcome both defend the program and demand continued improvements in it."

Let me explain to you how universal government-supplied housing works in practice.

You build special, high-quality apartment buildings for senior Party members to live in, while everybody else lives in the crap buildings constructed for the masses.

You build special, high-quality stores for senior Party members to shop in, while everybody shops in the crap stores constructed for the masses.

Etc., etc., etc.

Get the picture?

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 8:26 am

...and completely centralized national government dominated process.

Universal housing in the U.S. would be provided through diverse and largely local mechanisms like land trusts, support for resident run cooperatives, and some direct government owned housing.

To compare universal services in a high GDP western republic to the experience in the Soviet Union, is absurdly laughable.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 9:55 am

"Ridiculous Comparison - Soviet Housing Was A Rigid, Top Down
...and completely centralized national government dominated process."

Again, you don't know what you are talking about, Eric.

Numerous different organizations constructed housing in the Soviet Bloc - they were given a budget, a quota of units to build, and went forward.

As a matter of fact, companies, educational institutions, and other organizations frequently built their own housing for their workers, since they could get somewhat higher quality by doing their own construction. Larger factories had permanent subsidiaries devoted to constructing worker housing - fulfilling the dream of several posters here that Google be responsible for constructing housing for its workers.

The Soviet Bloc system, with a variety of organizations constructing housing, was remarkably close to what you are proposing, Eric.

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 5:29 pm

Can you provide links to prove your case?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

Here is an upbeat musical number showing the wonders of typical Soviet urban housing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1VN40bAsZI

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

Too many Americans are stuck in this ridiculous binary mentality: if we don't let capitalism have its way with the country, then the only alternative is the Soviet Union.

Personally, I still maintain that even that wasn't as one-sided as the right-wingers make it out. No one is defending the totalitarian aspect of it, but it would be absolutely correct to point out that under the Soviet regime, the Russian people had the highest material standard of living they have EVER had -before, or SINCE. And while it's nice to see Racer suddenly concerned about inequality, it should be pointed out that while there was inequality between high officials and ordinary folks, the level of inequality paled in comparison to what we have here (as well as what exists now in Russia under capitalism).

That said, I'm not advocating for that kind of state. About a third of Russians and some polls indicate as much as 40% of East Germans, would go back to the way it was, lack of freedom and all. Personally, I'm not that far left. I presume you agree, Eric. A mixed economy seems to me to work best if the goal is to provide a high living standard. A mixed economy in the richest country on earth should provide the best standard of living on earth. Instead of being #1 in military spending, spying, and incarceration, we could be #1 in housing, health outcomes, and education.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 10:55 am

We are #1 in housing. Americans enjoy more square feet person than people in any other nation.

Health outcomes have more to do with lifestyle choices than health care delivery. Americans suffer from diseases of affluence that your socialist proposals admittedly would cure by making us all much poorer.

How do you propose to make us #1 in education? Too many Americans already go to college for useless degrees. Before you bring up the spending disparity canard, per capita spending on under-represented minority students is equal to or greater than spending on non-urm students. European countries get better outcomes spending about 2/3 what we spend on K-12. Throwing more money at schools won't make up for lazy students, bad parents, and greedy public unions.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

"We are #1 in housing. Americans enjoy more square feet person than people in any other nation."

Not true. Australia beats us there, for starters. But we're near the top of those charts. I suspect that the median differs from the median here, though, and as with income the US would look worse if adjusted for inequality. If you have one country where one person has a palace and ten have a hovel, the mean looks better than a country where all 10 people have one bedroom apartments. In the US, I suspect there's the same kind of housing inequality as income inequality.

But really, I could care less about space after a certain point. What makes one country's housing situation better is not the average square feet per capita, mean or median. It's whether the whole population has access to quality, affordable housing. That's the real issue with the US, with its widespread poverty and homelessness.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 8:28 pm
yup

true

Posted by kldjxdg on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

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