SF housing crisis: it is not the techies

An excellent article, tl;dr and it’s your loss.

I was astounded to learn that

5) Also, parts of the progressive community do not believe in supply and demand.

Sweet slime-envelop’d Cthulhu, can this really be so??

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I never met these mythical beasts.

jpgs or it isn’t real.

Mythical good guy landlords! What will you have us on next? Kindhearted government censors?

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I’m not actually going to give out their names, of course, but both my girlfriend and myself found them. My last place, before I finally was forced to evacuate, was certainly not such a scenario, but I managed to slip in right at the nadir of of housing prices during the second dot-com bust. The place before (which I had to leave because of the first dot-com bust) was. Referred in by a coworker. My girlfriend got a steep discount because she is a horticulturalist and offered to fix up the garden. Neither of us could have afforded our places (nice places, too, top of Nob Hill, quiet street in upper Market) without those deals.

It is. I’ve read a lot of stuff circling this article, but it does a great job of laying things out. I don’t agree with everything, necessarily (I’m still very pro-rent control), but this is the kind of discussion people should be having.

Well, you can also find people who don’t believe in climate change. Hell, you can probably find “liberals” who don’t believe in climate change. But it also depends on what you mean be “believe”. Belief, particularly when it comes to economics in this country, can take the form of “I believe in” as in “I believe in climate change”, or it can take the form of “I believe in” as in “I believe in God, and submit myself to him in all things.” That may sound like hyperbole, but the position really does seem to inform a great deal of economic discourse in this country.

Anyway, I certainly don’t have the latter opinion of supply and demand: yes it’s a tool that generally models economic behavior, but not something that should inform our economic goals.


No gotchas. I just don’t feel like you can blame the lanlords for asking as much as they can, I think that is common everywhere.

Now, shady evictions is something else.

Greedy landlords are indeed common everywhere, and you can certainly make an argument that businessmen shouldn’t let social considerations get in the way of maximizing profit; and, as the article points out, there’s other people who deserve some blame, like the voters and politicians responsible for the lack of new housing construction.

But if, like a lot of locals, you’re not interested in the big picture and want to laser in on an immediate scapegoat, it still makes no sense to blame the tenants but not the landlords. They’re the ones with the power to set rates, not the techies.


Yes, the article didn’t really mention that the tech firms actively eliminate jobs in other cities and move them to the bay area. If you want to develop software for Google, Apple or Facebook they’ll demand that you move to SF. If you work for a company somewhere else that gets acquired, they’ll tell you to move to SF, unless the owner of the company managed to get a clause put in to say otherwise.

So, wait, it’s more complicated than “Checkmate, Poors”? You’re confusing me, Boing BOing.

No offense but if I own the building, renting it out at market rate is not “greedy.”

Forcing people out because they aren’t paying market rate? That’s a scumbag move. Charging the going rate in order to get a return on the risk and investment is not (you’re paying a mortgage on this pile and put a lot of your life’s resources into getting into it in the first place).

Bullshit. If that was the case, Google wouldn’t have satellite offices in other cities. You go tell this to my friends in Seattle who work for Google up there. They aren’t pressured to move to SF at all.

We’re agreed that outright evicting rent-controlled tenants solely to increase the rent is bad. How do you feel about landlords in a gentrifying, non-rent-controlled area driving the rent up and up until their longtime tenants are forced to leave, so they can bring in a wealthier class of people?

Why not? Why is the maximization of a rent-seeker’s profit margin valued so highly, versus the negative effects that such behavior inflicts on individuals and communities? Homes aren’t market goods like nifty new gadgets or fancy sports cars, they’re essential to survival. Renting a home to someone else is not a license to extort money, it’s a responsibility to your tenants.

The same goes for businesses. Evicting, say, a beloved bookstore that serves as a community focal point just because Kate Spade can offer more money helps no one but the landlord (who has done nothing to earn anything other than own something.) Helping yourself at the expense of all others is pretty much the definition of evil.


I didn’t say that “any action in accordance with The Market caps yours is inherently moral.” I also didn’t argue that charging the going rate is inherently immoral, which is what you seem to be saying.

How do you “gentrify a non-rent-controlled area?” Be specific. Do you mean “I bought this building for what the last owner wanted to sell it and then rented it out at market rate” or do you mean something else? I’m not being obtuse here. You’re acting like “gentrifying” is a real verb marking some kind of action. So what is the action?

Again, I generally side with owners of properties being allowed, within the limits that the law sets, to do what they want with their property. If that means that when a unit is empty, they can reset the rent, that’s fine. If it means that they can decide to no longer rent their property, that’s fine. Again, the owners take the risks in owning a building in labor, money, and liability, not the renters. If a renter has a problem with a building, they leave and find a new rental. If an owner has a problem, they have to fix it or otherwise deal with it while still paying the mortgage or they lose the building.

I should be clear though. I bought a house in Oakland eight years ago. It was in a largely black neighborhood (though not exclusively) that, before that, had been an Italian immigrant neighborhood. By paying market rate for my home and moving in, did I gentrify my neighborhood? Commonly, people seem to argue that I did but what I see is that I wanted to buy a home and someone wanted to sell it to me and did. It is only the aggregate of many many of those of us with more income, resources, privilege, etc. doing that which seems to turn it into gentrification.

Because someone has to own these buildings. If you’re renting, it isn’t you. The person or people who do own them are taking all the financial risk in doing so and it isn’t out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it because they expect to get a return on their risk in investing their money, either in longterm property value or, more immediately, in profit from rents. If folks don’t like it, I guess they should buy a home instead of renting (as callous as that is). If you’re renting, it isn’t your home. It is the landlord’s. You’re just borrowing it as long as they feel like renting it. Rent control just allows there to be legal limits on what can be charged (for all the reasons previously stated). That doesn’t change the fact that at the end of the day, renters don’t own these homes and, therefore, don’t have rights to them.

Put it another way, is a landlord under a moral obligation to take less money for his or her property because people think the market rate is unfair? They don’t set the market rate, after all. It is set by what people are, otherwise, willing to pay based on the supply of housing. If they are under such an obligation, why not argue for rent control for all rental residences in all cities, counties, states, etc? We can let the government tell owners what they are allowed to charge. Of course, if that happened, a lot of folks wouldn’t bother to either buy or put money into maintaining properties. Why would they? There is no reason they’d spend their own money on it with no real return. You’d be better off arguing for a Soviet style system where the State owns housing and gives it out to people.

Oh, renters don’t own their homes? Thanks for the education as to the meaning of “rent,” here I’d been laboring under the burden of not being fluent in my native language.

You’re simply describing things as they are (landlords sell themselves out to the highest bidder to the exclusion of any other considerations,) while I’m trying to figure out a better way to arrange things. If part of that involves shaming opportunistic profiteers, well, let me break out this World’s Tiniest Invisible Violin.

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At least she provided a TL;DR - “young, rich tech douchebags-versus-helpless old ladies facing eviction.”

Pointing fingers everywhere, except at the people who can afford rent “appreciation”. Its a class war, where the profiteering technologist can’t possibly understand why immigrant families or those on a restricted income can’t keep up with the soaring rents.

Another example of the capitalistic larvae devouring the corpse of a city, until it resembles something like Detroit, upon which it sheds its skin through a few IPO-moltings and scurries off to attach its parasitical proboscis to something else.

After all, if you are well off you can move anywhere.

What? You’re middle class or poor? “Cant you just Uber there?”, they’d say, smudging the glass surface of their capacitive smartphones, smirking slightly at the latest stock quote. I look forward to the “engagement” of real hard working people to these clueless anglophiles, its an attitude adjustment that is sorely overdue.

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And how many of those offices do engineering?

Google shut down their Austin TX office and told everyone they had to move to SF. Similarly, when they bought QuickOffice, they shut down the other offices around the world and moved the key staff to SF. When they bought Skia, Inc in Arkansas, they moved everyone to SF. And so on.

Facebook actually lost a bidding war over their insistence that the company be relocated to SF.

Everyone I know in Seattle, which is quite a few folks.