Thomas Sowell

It will of course always be possible to confuse the issue -- and the voters -- by creating little token patches of "affordable housing" here and there with government subsidies. Sometimes these token "affordable" houses or apartments can be created by imposing requirements on private builders to sell a certain percentage of their housing "below market price." Of course, the builders then recoup their losses by raising the rents or home prices on the rest of the housing that they build.

Staggering housing prices translate into major changes -- for the worse -- in people's lives. Just to support a small family at a modest standard of living can require both parents to work full-time, when housing costs alone require spending thousands of dollars a month just to make the mortgage payment.

Unless you are in a highly paid profession, even two full-time jobs will not produce enough money to cover the mortgage on astronomically priced housing in places like Palo alto, San Francisco or much of the land in between. This means that people who work in these communities have to live far inland and make long commutes.

The sheriff's department in Redwood City, California, rents a house where its deputies can sleep after they have worked long hours of overtime. That is because many of the deputies have to live so far way, because they cannot afford the housing where they work, and it would be dangerous for them to have to drive all the way home at night when they are exhausted.

Thousands of other people also have to live far from their jobs because of artificially high housing costs, due to "open space" laws. In San Mateo County, where more than half the land is off-limits to building, the black population dropped by 23 percent between the 1990 census and the 2000 census.

All this -- and more -- is the price of the impossible combination of "open space" and "affordable housing" advocated by politicians like Barbara Boxer. But what is an impossibility between friends -- especially in an election year?

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate