If you pay any attention to online housing discourse you’ve heard repeatedly that we can eliminate homelessness by just building more houses. The most idiotic versions of this theory rely on the (putatively obvious) idea that if the demand for a good is fixed then the price is roughly inversely proportional to the supply. My personal feeling about all theories like this is that they are framing phenomena created by state violence as if they were the result of universal natural laws, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from them.
In particular we can learn that this supply/price assumption implies that under apparently normal market conditions landlords with more than a few units can maximize their profit by intentionally keeping apartments vacant to artificially restrict supply. If it’s actually true that increasing housing supply functionally decreases housing costs then all else being equal it will lead to house-hoarding. This appears to be a contradiction in the theory.
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Apparently human beings are forced to live on the streets of Los Angeles because it’s “illegal to build housing” here. I guess there are even people who think we can “solve homelessness” in this City by changing or eliminating zoning codes to allow developers to build whatever they want wherever they want? These folks self-present as the smartest guys in the room but nevertheless have some pretty kooky ideas about how things work in this City. Just for instance, they seem to think that Los Angeles developers and politicians desperately want to house the homeless but somehow always end up thwarted by the complexity of the problem and a bunch of putatively bad laws that no one likes but somehow got written and enforced anyway.
Neither politicians nor developers can do anything about homelessness despite the fact that they’re in charge of the whole damn City because, the story goes, a bunch of single family homeowners hate apartments and use their vast political power to retain racist zoning laws in order to increase property values. These genius urban theorists, who apparently think it would be easier to get Los Angeles to eliminate zoning codes than to build a bunch of public housing, characterize every possible non-market solution to homelessness as leftist naivete. They tout their desired policies as political realism even as they denigrate progressive ideas as impossible and revolutionary.
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