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Recent Development Misses Berkeley's Real Housing Needs (News Analysis)

Tom Hunt
Thursday April 02, 2015 - 01:31:00 PM

For years we've been hearing that Berkeley needs all the new housing that can be built, at whatever price point the developers choose. But a quick review of the data confirmed my suspicion that developers have built way too much expensive housing and much too little housing for those whose income is moderate and below. It's even worse than I had previously thought.

First let's look at the last 8 years. 84% of the new housing in Berkeley was for households with greater than $92,566 yearly income (the orange top of the bars). 

Over the last 8 years Berkeley has added only 14% of the housing goals set by the regional Plan Bay Area for moderate income and below but has added 89% of the goal for households making more than $92,566 (Above Moderate Income). If we don't build 1116 units of affordable housing before we build 125 above moderate income units, we won't build our way out of the affordable housing hole we're in. 

Cheryl Cort at Greater Greater Washington says "a free-market approach isn't the whole answer to housing affordability". Cort refers to an analysis by Anita Morrison which shows "The 65-foot building costs $168,000 per unit, while the costs for high-rise steel and concrete buildings of 130 to 250 feet are higher. The 200-foot building costs $241,000 per unit." Steel costs 43% more than wood which is passed on into the rents. 

Concrete and steel 180 foot buildings may be sellable to the rich from politically unstable parts of the world looking for Bay Area real estate. But they're not affordable by local families making less than $92,566. 

Also the Plan Bay Area goals themselves (created by the Association of Bay Area Governments) are unsupported by the data I found. 

Our questionable water supply alone threatens our capacity for population growth. At the current growth rate, 1.75%/year , Alameda County will need twice as much water in just 40 years.( 

We're going to have to find some other way to equitably distribute the housing we have. I suggest covering all new housing under rent control and eliminating vacancy decontrol.