What Housing Crisis?


Op-Ed: What Housing Crisis?

Published on August 16th, 2023

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent by Randy A. Alcorn
Too Much Housing Will Destroy Our City

“Crisis” is one of the most overused and misused words in the treasure chest of English vocabulary. So many challenges, inconveniences, and thwarted desires are now reflexively inflated to crisis status. The housing issue in Santa Barbara is one such example of this. It was elevated to crisis status years ago and has been left up there ever since. Can a crisis be perpetual?

Not if it is a real crisis.

A real crisis is a situation that has reached a critical point at which the outcome could be disastrous. When was the critical point reached where Santa Barbara was teetering on disaster because there wasn’t enough housing here for everyone who wanted it? Was it 1950, 1970, 1990, 2000, now?

There always has been, and will continue to be, endless demand for housing in Santa Barbara, because, all things considered, it is one of the best places on earth. There have been wailings about insufficient housing here for at least 70 years. There’s never enough, and there never will be.

What there is, however, is a growing entitlement mentality that equates “desire” with “deserve” — meaning that housing here must be provided for anyone who wants it regardless of their financial wherewithal, limited essential resources (e.g., water), or the irreversible degradation of what makes Santa Barbara so attractive.

The naively idealistic people-packers allied with the usual forces of greed typically ignore the reality of limits and the consequences of populating a place beyond its safe carrying capacity. Their vision is myopic, their desires immediate. Left unchecked, they will ravage a place like ravenous locusts devouring a field of wheat.

Misguided, myopic, state politicians are forcing housing quotas on communities whether the communities like it or not, and they are essentially outlawing small towns and single-family neighborhoods. Meanwhile, well-intentioned housing advocates moralistically argue for “inclusionary” housing, reciting the old canard of impending economic doom if it isn’t provided. That boy has been crying wolf for decades now.

What to ask every people-packing politician and housing advocate is “how many more do we build, when is enough, enough?” There seems to be a tacit delusion that the next round of mandated housing will be it. Problem solved. Has that ever been the case?

The CEO of Santa Barbara’s Housing Authority recently made some telling observations that recognize the realities of the housing issue here. Building too much housing “would cause significant impacts to our city’s resources and infrastructure.” And, “Santa Barbara is a unique housing market, a highly desirable place where demand is more inelastic and less sensitive to price. Anyone from any place in the world will pay whatever the price it takes to move to paradise.”

Well, not “anyone.” Housing is affordable here, but not for everyone. Providing housing here for everyone who wants it will destroy the place.

So, how many additional residents should Santa Barbara accommodate?

Not too long ago, wiser city leaders set a population cap of 85,000 for the city. That has been exceeded, and if the people-packers and forces of greed have their way, every nook and cranny of Santa Barbara will be crammed with housing reaching to the sky.

Santa Barbara is worth preserving for many of the same reasons we preserve special places, like national parks; because once it’s gone, it’s gone for everyone — forever.

The real housing crisis confronting us is not too little housing, it’s too much. We are at a turning point.

Push back on growth. Support the Our Neighborhood Voices ballot measure to reverse the state’s misguided, ham-fisted, housing mandates.

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