NYT: Middle-Class Americans Must Sacrifice their Suburbs to Aid Poor Immigrants
“The federal government is an irresistible force when it chooses to prioritize an issue. It is past time to prioritize the availability of affordable housing” for immigrants, says the July 7 editorial, titled “A New Approach on Housing Affordability.”
The editorial starts with a complaint about housing prices — but it never mentions the obvious fix: Ending the federal policy of annually importing 1 million immigrant workers, consumers, and renters, which inflates housing prices and class competition for good neighborhoods and good schools. Reduced immigration, in contrast, would raise Americans’ salaries, lower their housing prices, improve their schools, and also disappoint real-estate investors.
The editorial declares:
A growing number of Americans are struggling to cope with the high and rising cost of rental housing in the United States. On any given night last year, more than half a million Americans were homeless. Nearly 11 million households managed to keep a roof over their heads only by spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent, sharply curtailing their spending on food, health care and other needs. Millions more cannot afford to live in the neighborhoods where children are most likely to thrive, or in the cities where jobs are concentrated.
Three candidates — Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey; Julian Castro, the former secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama; and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have proposed that the federal government should pressure local governments to allow more development [within suburbs] … Mr. Booker and Mr. Castro have proposed that the federal government should require local governments to adopt land-use reforms before they can obtain federal funding for infrastructure projects. The point is not to mandate construction of skyscrapers in place of suburban subdivisions. Rather, it is to require local jurisdictions to make reasonable plans to accommodate population growth — for example, by allowing small-scale apartment buildings in single-family neighborhoods.
The NYT’s “small-scale apartment buildings” link connects to a June 15 editorial by the board which lauds the progressive city of Minneapolis for taking single-family lot zoning away from the city’s homeowners. Suburbia is an economically inefficient “entitlement” for wealthy Americans, the paper claims:
In most places, [new] housing construction remains wildly unpopular. People who think of themselves as progressives, environmentalists and egalitarians fight fiercely against urban development, complaining about traffic and shadows and the sanctity of lawns.
That’s why a recent breakthrough in Minneapolis is so important. The city’s political leaders have constructed a broad consensus in favor of more housing. And the centerpiece is both simple and brilliant: Minneapolis is ending single-family zoning …
People should be free to live in a prairie-style house on a quarter-acre lot in the middle of Minneapolis, so long as they can afford the land and taxes. But zoning subsidizes that extravagance by prohibiting better, more concentrated use of the land. It allows people to own homes they could not afford if the same land could be used for an apartment building. It is a huge entitlement program for the benefit of the most entitled residents.
The loose fabric of single-family neighborhoods drives up the cost of housing by limiting the supply of available units. It contributes to climate change, by necessitating sprawl and long commutes. It constrains the economic potential of cities by limiting growth.
The phrase “constrains the economic potential” — hints at the bigger winner from the housing crunch created by mass migration — real estate investors:
Minneapolis’ decision to reduce the value of suburban housing is justified by racial inequality 93 years ago, according to the June 15 editorial by the board:
The 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark, a black man killed by Minneapolis police officers, focused the anger of the city’s black residents — and it persuaded some of their neighbors to listen more carefully. In the ensuing debates, many residents said they were surprised to learn that single-family zoning in Minneapolis, as in other cities, had deep roots in efforts to enforce racial segregation. Cities found that banning apartment construction in white neighborhoods was an effective proxy for racial discrimination, and the practice spread after it was validated by the Supreme Court in 1926.
In Minneapolis, the current political leaders argued that ending single-family zoning was a necessary step to rectify that history of racial discrimination. On many city lawns, signs that read “Neighbors for More Neighbors” stood alongside signs that read “Black Lives Matter.”
All of this deserves wide emulation by other American cities.
Naturally, the editorial board does not mention Minneapolis’ huge population of 50,000 imported poor people from Somalia, none of whom suffered from racial discrimination in Minneapolis 93 years ago.
Poor people also need taxpayer-subsidized rents and mortgages to keep pace with middle-class Americans, the board adds in the July 7 editorial:
Rent subsidies also hold promise as a tool for reducing residential segregation. Poor children raised in economically diverse neighborhoods thrive by comparison with those raised in concentrations of poverty, yet subsidized housing tends to be built in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty. Under the Obama administration, renters in some cities were offered larger vouchers if they agreed to move to areas with better schools, where housing tends to be more expensive. The early results were promising, and the program deserves to be revived and expanded.
Government should use its power to force middle-class suburbanites to accept poor people and minorities in their neighborhoods and schools, the board said: “Proposals to make federal infrastructure funding contingent on land use reform also might be usefully extended by requiring affluent communities to accept affordable housing projects.”
The board does not say which Americans will pay the housing subsidies nor which investors will profit from the subsidies.
The editorials modestly declined to mention how many board members live in expensive and childless downtown apartments, where they quietly freeload off suburbanites’ hard-earned ability to raise the next generation of children in suburban parkland.
But the board does admit the political danger of reorganizing the nation’s suburbs to match the federal government’s high-migration/low-wages economic strategy:
This embrace of [suburban] deregulation merits particular praise because the states most resistant to allowing housing construction are the strongholds of the Democratic Party, in the Northeast and along the Pacific Coast, and the most resistant voters are the wealthy residents of those states who provide so much of the funding for Democratic presidential campaigns.
Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or university.
But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants and refreshes a resident population of roughly 1.5 million white-collar visa workers — including approximately one million H-1B workers — and approximately 500,000 blue-collar visa workers.
The government also prints out more than one million work permits for foreigners, tolerates about eight million illegal workers, and does not punish companies for employing the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants who sneak across the border or overstay their legal visas each year.
This policy of inflating the labor supply boosts economic growth for investors because it ensures that employers do not have to compete for American workers by offering higher wages and better working conditions.
This policy of flooding the market with cheap, foreign, white-collar graduates and blue-collar labor also shifts enormous wealth from young employees towards older investors, even as it also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, and hurts children’s schools and college educations. It also pushes Americans away from high-tech careers and sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with fentanyl addictions. The labor policy also moves business investment and wealth from the heartland to the coastal cities, explodes rents and housing costs, shrivels real estate values in the Midwest, and rewards investors for creating low-tech, labor-intensive workplaces.