Thomas Sowell

Redevelopment exports low-income people and imports high-income people-- with no net addition or subtraction of either segment of the population in the country as a whole. The huge costs of redevelopment projects turn what would otherwise be a zero-sum process into a huge net loss for society as a whole.

Between restrictions on development and the destruction of existing low-income housing by redevelopment, low-income and even moderate-income people are forced out by high housing costs.

Often this process takes the form of ethnic cleansing. Blacks, for example, have been driven out of communities up and down the San Francisco peninsula, including East Palo Alto, which was once 61 percent black, and is today only 17 percent black.

But that 17 percent is still the highest proportion of blacks in any community in three whole counties on the San Francisco peninsula. None of the 38 other communities in those three counties has a population that is even 5 percent black.

Other segments of the population are likewise forced out by the economics of the development restrictions and the redevelopment hoax. Only 7 percent of Palo Alto's police force actually lives in Palo Alto. A fourth of them live all the way on the other side of the San Francisco Bay.

Families with children are also forced out of communities on the San Francisco peninsula, on such a scale that many schools are closing down for lack of students.

All this is a high price to pay for a political hoax. But the dozens of redevelopment agencies in California are up in arms at the suggestion that the money they get be cut, in order to deal with the state's financial crisis. Local politicians are of course on the side of these agencies, so the hoax may well continue.

Thomas Sowell

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

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