Apple’s $2.5 billion affordable housing pledge won’t be nearly enough

Tomothy B. Lee for Ars Technica:

Apple has pledged $2.5 billion to help address California’s affordable-housing crisis, the company announced on Monday.

These efforts to promote affordable housing are laudable, but corporate initiatives alone are unlikely to solve California’s housing crisis. The Golden State’s fundamental housing problem is that state and local laws simply don’t allow developers to build enough housing to accommodate rising demand.

In the 20th century, cities could accommodate growing demand for housing by pushing suburbs outwards. But in major metropolitan areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles, that process has largely run its course. Most of the land within a reasonable driving distance of job centers has been developed. Which means that the only way to accommodate further growth is by increasing density: replacing single-family homes with duplexes, townhouses, and apartment buildings.

The problem is that the law doesn’t allow this in most areas. A Los Angeles Times analysis found that 62% of land in Los Angeles is zoned for single-family homes only. In San Francisco, 75% of the land is zoned not to allow anything denser than a duplex. Laws in suburban Silicon Valley are even stricter.

Ultimately, the only way to make housing affordable is to build a lot more of it. And that won’t happen without changes to the law.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s $2.5 billion might have been better spent promoting legislation to overhaul California’s zoning laws.

19 Comments

  1. The want-to-be Gentry class across America doesn’t want a change to the single house dream which most can’t afford, however there are plenty of slumlord apartments (at a high price) being
    built everywhere in America.

    1. The zoning laws aren’t some sort of weird libtard anomaly. Most of the voters in these communities live in single-family homes, and they don’t want their property values to be adversely affected by apartments in their neighborhoods. Any effort by a city council to increase housing density results in a political firestorm. If the council members don’t back down, they will be replaced by more responsive politicians who will. As we keep hearing, elections have consequences.

      Don’t blame this on Democrats. Why would they oppose bringing more moderate-income voters into their electorate? If they could, they would bring in more poor and minority voters who are less likely to vote Republican.

      The refusal to allow higher densities is coming from affluent residents with a vested interest in high property values. As long as apartments remain scarce, rental prices will continue shooting skyward. The lack of affordable housing in turn causes homelessness to rise. Even fixed-income residents who own their homes outright can be driven out by high property taxes.

      The same thing happens in areas of Texas with very weak zoning laws, because existing residents won’t approve variances from neighborhood association property covenants. Association officers who favor higher densities will be replaced ASAP.

      1. “Don’t blame this on Democrats.”

        Really, FAKE CONSERVATIVE? The last time I checked the state of California is the most heavily populated and Democrat dominated state in the USA at ALL political levels.

        The party runs all the
        major cities with record numbers of homeless because of several factors, number one sanctuary city denizens who can’t work because they are illegals. Wait a minute, hmmm, it’s California maybe they can work in Democrat run businesses everywhere.

        So, NO I could not disagree with you more. DEMOCRATS OWN THIS! They are in positions of power at the state level starting with Pelosi, Democrat mayors, council men and women, et al. The majority of citizens opposing dense housing in their backyards for fear of property values are dominated by Democrat homeowners. Lastly, Apple is a Democrat run company from Cook, the board down to employees.

        Get a grip…

        1. “Anyone who thinks that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to oppose affordable housing”

          I am too lazy to look up the numbers, but because the Democrats rule California, they have to live somewhere is simply common sense. I believe it is a safe bet that the majority of opposition is from Democrat homeowners a statistic you will NEVER see on CNN or read in the NYT.

          The majority of opposition from USER is protecting outdated partisan stereotypes.

          Get real…

  2. The issue is not the GENEROUS offer that Apple (and others) are offering. (MDN the title of your article is a bit misleading in my opinion implying Apple is not offering enough money.). Rather the issue is the zoning rights to build apartment buildings versus single family homes. While the simple answer is to change the zoning rights, before they do Californians need to consider the impact to infrastructure (electricity, roads, waste disposal, etc.) and natural resources (water availability, air quality). Hopefully a comprehensive review of the situation will provide the justification for allowing the population density to increase so that all who want housing in the area will be able to afford housing.

  3. It’s 2.5 billion more than yesterday. Nothing wrong with that. It is also an interesting way to spend that money, including making an attempt at everything from housing development grants to helping homelessness. Others will follow, so no 2.5 billion won’t solve the problem, but if it starts a trend by private industry to help, while encouraging government to do its part, it could make a difference. MDN, you know Apple never does what it is supposed to do. It just sets trends and changes the world. Let’s see if this helps over time.

    1. One would presume that if all the major businesses were equally as ‘generous’ then that is some massive wedge to spend on affordable housing and infrastructure assuming they can indeed find the locations, more sympathetic planning regs and additionally better transit systems are provided.

  4. Most of the land in Californian is available for building. Location is the issue.

    The people living in the valleys don’t want building on the surrounding hills to ruin their view. I know, because I was one of them when I lived in Pacifica, CA, Just 10 minutes south of San Francisco.

    Pushing out to longer commutes, is what usually happens, but in California, we have blocked many expansion proposals for freeways and access roads. (Our Highways are visibly in poor repair. Wen I drive into Oregon, I an so relieved to drive on good roads again.) I feels like wee keep raising the Gas tax with a promise of road repair, and then it is used for other things, like trains and mass transit. Disappointing, but I digress.

    Drive a ways out from a major city and property values become much more reasonable. Take Lodi, California, for example. It has no housing shortage, and some of the lowest rents around.

    We have lots of available housing in California, but people don’t want to move to where it is.

    There are various perspectives on this issue.

  5. This is a common problem in many of the world’s largest cities: how to fit more people in without spreading out even more and creating untenable commute times, creating divided cities according to proximity to the (usually) more job-rich centre and requiring investment in brand new infrastructure vs upgrades to existing infrastructure.
    If Apple can contribute to the visibility of this issue in California it helps them greatly to have more people able to afford to live closer to their offices and to be able to afford more of their products if they don’t have to worry so much about the high cost of rent.
    Here in Sydney (pop. 5.5million) we’re facing the same issue as the city spread out too far, too quickly, and there is a push to return to previous strategies of terrace houses, manor houses and town houses. Suffering from a bad reputation in the past as greedy landlords built them cheaply and without proper infrastructure, they are now extremely popular as you can fit quite large homes in a small land area through the clever use of terraced levels and provide front and rear recreational space.

  6. Nothing will ever be enough to the band of socialists that dragged California down into the sewer. The would take all of apple’s wealth and destroy all its value and still not solve the problem. They’ve wasted many multiples more than 2.5B already and are utter failures. Apple is stupid in giving more to these failures and expecting a different result.

    I hope apple shareholders sue the hell out of apple, its board, and tim cook, with personal liability, for spending share holders money without the proper vote and care to minority shareholder rights.

  7. What about the other companies in CA. that are worth billions ($)? Apple can’t do it alone, although until the mindset of the voters/politician’s in CA changes, nothing will happen.

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