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I Feel Better Now

Columnist: Norm Rosinski
September, 2017 Issue
Columnist

Norm Rosinski
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Welcome to the September Construction/Real Estate issue of NorthBay biz magazine. In addition to all the stories this month, there’s a special report on Wine Country Living. Please enjoy all the features and columns in the areas only locally owned, formerly glossy business publication. You can rely on NorthBay biz as your local source for business news and information, because, “Helping grow your business isn’t just something we do…It’s all we do!”

Apparently, government agencies and business groups finally found something they can agree upon as a state housing official recently declared with certainty: “The ongoing gap between housing need, projected growth and actual housing development is real.” This obvious conclusion comes as no surprise to business owners in the North Bay, who’ve been struggling for several years to find and hire qualified employees.

Housing availability and affordability is the number one job killer, reducing the labor pool and taking its toll on employee retention. As the supply of housing declines, home prices and rents increase rapidly, pricing many out of the local market. Though local governments don’t build housing, their zoning and land use policy directly impacts supply, which is the prime driver of housing cost.

Sacramento legislators are off to a fast start this year in their never-ending quest to “liberate” more of our money for use in funding more of their nanny-state schemes. Fresh from raising gas taxes to fix the same roads they’ve been taxing us for for years and the governor’s heroic efforts to extend the cap-and-trade boondoggle, our state leaders will now turn their attention to solving the housing “crisis.” I feel better already. I can hardly wait until they return to Sacramento, after their month-long mid-summer vacation, to fix a problem that their policies primarily created in the first place.

In the 12-year span, from 2003 to 2014, California built a meager 47 percent of the housing needed, according to state housing officials. Currently, California is building 100,000 new housing units per year, falling far short of the 180,000 new units needed annually to keep up with demand. State housing authorities, eager to fix blame elsewhere, claim it’s not a lack of developers desire to invest in new housing, but rather the reluctance of local government to approve new housing complexes because of a lack of support from current (NIMBYS) homeowners (voters).

Let’s face it. California’s progressive land-use policies have made the state the most unaffordable in the nation. Everywhere you look, the state seems to be moving in the wrong direction for the people least equipped to pay the bills—environmental regs, restrictive zoning and high-impact fees (to name just a few hurdles) do great damage to those least able to afford housing and exorbitant rents. To those politicians who pooh-pooh the negative impacts their policies create, please explain this startling statistic: More than 5 million California residents have left the state over the past decade to relocate somewhere else more affordable. Tell me this doesn’t hurt the economy as employers and their employees flee the state for better economic climes.

If housing isn’t broken here, why are six of the seven least affordable metro areas in the country right here in California? Why does the average two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco cost more than $4,700 a month to rent? Really? How much money do you have to make to spend $56,400 a year for an apartment in the city? If you follow the time- tested formula of 25 percent of your income should be spent on housing, the answer is: you need to earn $225,600 annually to afford that apartment. When looked at that way, it’s easy to understand why 5 million people have had little choice, but to leave the state.

It’s clear that government policy has made California one of the most unaffordable places to live in the country. Home ownership rates have plunged to their lowest levels since the 1940s. The overall financial stress of living here (overall cost of living expense coupled with wage stagnation) has driven middle-class families to distraction. As Governor Brown chastises those, whose tax-and-cost-of-living complaints are all too real, as “freeloaders” who don’t want to pay their fair share, their answer to their stress has too often been to flee the state.

Once upon a time, (not that long ago) governments, federal, state and local took approximately 15 cents out of every dollar we earned. Today, it’s far worse if you have any interest in keeping more of what you worked for. According to the Tax Foundation, for many the combined total of government taxes today exceeds 50 percent. Americans will pay $3.5 trillion in federal taxes and $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes. How and where this ends I have no idea, but I do know that government’s appetite for our money is insatiable.

That’s it for now. Enjoy this month’s magazine.

 

 

In this Issue

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