A housing dictatorship has come to Northern California


By Richard Colman

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, states:  “No person shall. . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Apparently, the Constitution does not apply in Northern California (and perhaps elsewhere).

In Berkeley, California, the city government voted on July 13, 2018, to fine landlords who let their property sit vacant for too long.

According to Berkeley mayor Jesse Areguin, “We have a number of buildings in the city of Berkeley that are completely vacant, which is, frankly, criminal.” (The East Bay Times, July 13, 2018)

In Berkeley, fines on vacant property could range from $100 to $500 per violation.

Anyone familiar with Bay Area housing knows that so-called affordable housing is in short, perhaps nonexistent, supply.

However, does government have the right to take command of private property?

Within Berkeley’s city limits is the Berkeley campus of the University of California.  In a speech to alumni on July 13, 2018, Berkeley’s chancellor, Carol Crist, said that, basically, all available space on campus-owned property will be used for the construction of additional student housing.

 Rent Café, a real-estate publication, reported in July 2018, “Studio apartments in Berkeley rent for $2,254 a month, while 1-bedroom apartments ask on average $2,668 a month; the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is $3,696.”

In San Francisco, housing is also an issue.  On July 11, 2018, Ms. London Breed was sworn in as the city’s new mayor. 

 In Ms. Breed’s inaugural address, she said, “The politics of ‘no’ has plagued our city for far too long –‘not on my block, not in my backyard.’ We have made mistakes in the past by not moving housing production forward all over this city.  I plan to change the politics of ‘no’ to the politics of ‘yes’ . . . [y]es, we will build more housing.”  (Associated Press, July 11, 2018)

 Two state-mandated programs are depriving local communities of land-use control.

One program is the Housing Element.  According the website of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, “Since 1969, California has required all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community.”  Sometimes, Housing Elements require that hundreds of new homes be constructed in local communities, even if the communities have no extra land.

 Another program is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).  The website of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) states that ” . . . RHNA is the state-mandated to identify the total number of housing units (by affordability level) that each jurisdiction must accommodate in its Housing Element.”  The directors of ABAG are not directly elected by voters.

State of California housing-construction mandates assume that population and job growth in California will continue.

However, a poll by the Bay Area Council, a business group, showed that 46 percent of Bay Area residents are likely to leave the region in the next few years.  In 2017, the figure was 40 percent.  In 2016, 34 percent wanted to leave.  The poll was released on June 3, 2018.

 To accelerate an exodus of people and jobs from California, government might want to try three measures: 

  • Place a tax on foreign purchases of real estate.
  • Impose a per-employee tax, often called a head tax, on businesses.
  • Raise the state corporate income tax from 8.84 percent to a higher level.  Currently, California has the seventh highest state corporate income-tax level in the nation.

Higher taxes will help drive businesses — and the jobs associated with these businesses — to other states or other countries.

Essentially, no one likes higher taxes.  But when housing prices become too high, people can let the market work, resulting in a population exodus.  Or people can use taxation to speed up market trends.

Whatever Californians decide to do, there can be no violation of the Fifth Amendment.  Government must not be allowed, without due process of law, to interfere with private-property rights.

Richard Colman is the founder and president of Biomed Inc., a biotechnology, publishing, and informatics company.  He is a biochemist and earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.  He lives in Orinda, California.

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One Response to A housing dictatorship has come to Northern California

  1. Dotty Pringle July 25, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    See The Little Pink House…


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