Why Housing Matters
October 12, 2012
By Phil Ting
When foreclosures spiked and housing prices dropped, family assets were decimated. Communities across the state saw drops in local revenue so severe that it pushed some cities into bankruptcy and left many others on the precipice of insolvency.
The lesson we learned – housing matters. And it is particularly important, now that we are on the slow road to recovery, to remember this vital point.
Housing matters because when prices drop, particularly in lower income communities, family nest eggs are decimated. As bad as the foreclosure crisis was everywhere, it was particularly damaging to the African American and Latino communities in California. Foreclosure rates in these communities almost twice the national average.
Stable Housing Values Keep Government Revenues Stable
Housing matters because stable housing values keep government revenues stable, which means better schools, safer communities and a higher quality of life.
Housing matters because when the housing markets finally recover, rents start to spike and long-term residents of a community are pushed out of their homes and far from their jobs, schools and families. This is already starting to happen in parts of San Francisco, where the average rent approaches $3,000 per month – even higher in many neighborhoods.
Housing matters because how and where we create new housing increases or decreases our quality of life. Too much housing in the wrong places without the right investments in new infrastructure means traffic and crowding. Too little new housing means prices spike in city centers and the young and the old – and eventually the middle class – are driven out. It means teachers, police officers, firefighters and other working people are forced to live hours from their jobs, and most of them must commute by car, which in turn impacts our environment and their own quality of life.
One of the reasons I want to go to Sacramento and work for the people of San Francisco and San Mateo counties is because I understand just how much housing does matter, and I think my expertise can make a difference in this vital area.
As Assessor-Recorder, much of my job revolved around housing policy. I’m proud it was my office that conducted the independent audit of mortgage lending fraud that helped give factual ammunition for those successfully fighting to pass the Homeowners Bill of Rights.
We were one of the first agencies in the state to take an aggressive stance against mortgage fraud and predatory lending, working with San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros and so many others on the “Don’t Borrow Trouble” efforts.
Because I understand the details of housing policy, I was able to argue successfully for the GoSolarSF program, which creates jobs, benefits our environment and pays for itself in the long term, raising housing values after homes are sold and thus creating more local revenue.
Before I became Assessor-Recorder, I worked in the private sector where part of my job was helping to make real estate policy. And before that, I worked in real estate and then as executive director of a non-profit, where part of our mission was protecting tenants and homeowners targeted for lending fraud.
This is a complicated area, and policymakers need to understand it in order to make sound policy and protect our communities. Housing matters absolutely – and I know why. That’s why I will continue to be a champion for homeowners facing unlawful foreclosure, renters being pushed out of their homes, and communities shaping the kind of new housing policies that preserve and protect our quality of life.