Tag Archives: Homelessness

Apartments Are Banned from 76% of San Francisco

I came across in incredible stat today. Apartments are banned in 76% of San Francisco. It’s no wonder that it’s the most expensive city in the United States.

In fact, given increasingly restrictive zoning, 54% of the homes in San Francisco could not be built today! The picture in New York City is similar, where 40% of Manhattan homes couldn’t be built under current zoning codes.

I find the anti-development discourse often focuses on “greedy developers” when a more appropriate person to focus on might be “working class mom who doesn’t want to live 90 minutes from work.” How we frame the problem may be the key to winning the argument. The “neighborhood character” trope is another NIMBY standby, but against a struggling single mom who spends four hours a day commuting on a bus to her job as a nanny and just wants an affordable place near her job, i think their argument loses its punch.

Housing in expensive cities like SF and NYC could get more affordable in a different, more painful way. Everyone I know of who lives in San Francisco is decrying staggering amounts of crime and school closures that have gone on over a year. The tech industry has moved to Zoom and found real efficiencies there. I live in the NYC area and can attest that crime has increased substantially.

Perhaps the way San Francisco and similar cities get cheaper isn’t by building, but by self-destruction.

For more on zoning and politics, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Typical San Francisco house” by 4nitsirk is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

How I Know The Need Out There Is Real

I was at the grocery store recently when the woman behind me in line tried to return a pair of hubcaps.

There’s nothing wrong with them. I just need groceries more than I need hubcaps.

That’s what she said. The hubcaps cost $14. Fourteen dollars was the difference between her eating or not eating.

You may be picturing her in your mind. I’d wager your picture is wrong. She was a nicely dressed woman in her 50’s who would have fit right in at a corporate office. Perhaps she used to work in one.

“Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with them,” she repeated.

The store manager took pity on her and let her return the perfectly good hubcaps. In place of them, she slid a small pile of groceries down the conveyor belt.

It’s easy for us to make excuses. Isn’t this the government’s job? What about food stamps? But it’s easy for people to fall through the cracks of a system that’s largely indifferent to them. Paperwork gets lost, caseworkers don’t show up, appointments are all booked until three weeks from Tuesday, etc.

The economic devastation of this pandemic is very real. And it may be a lot closer than we think. I certainly didn’t expect it right behind me in line at the grocery in my well-off town.

How can we help? A favorite charity of mine is the Salvation Army. It provides food to people who have nowhere else to turn. You can donate here.

Have a great weekend and a happy Valentine’s day, everyone!

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Photo: “Swan, homeless, on Mission St.” by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Brazil’s Society is Collapsing as COVID Slams its Economy

There is a huge increase in homelessness in Brazil, per Der Spiegel. Many have lost jobs due to the COVID pandemic, leading to a second humanitarian crisis, this one economic. I found this quote from a factory worker who recently lost his job particularly striking:

“I never thought I would end up in this situation,” he says, “and suddenly …” He snaps his fingers and his eyes fill with tears. The worst, he says, is the hunger and the constant feeling of being dirty. “It is the most terrible experience I have ever had in my life, the biggest humiliation.”

This is a man who worked…he was not lazy. But unfortunately, he has still lost everything. Financial relief from the government, on which one third (!) of society depends, is expiring:

…the government in Brasília ceased paying out an emergency allowance for the poor struck by the crisis as of January. Fully 67 million Brazilians – almost a third of the population – had been relying on the 600 real (around 90 euros) each month. “It helped people in the favelas pay for rent or food,” says Kohara. And they have no savings, he adds. Their situations are now so tenuous that they could end up on the streets from one day to the next.

This drives home the importance of stimulus measures in the US. In addition, perhaps an international poverty relief effort is needed.

More here.

Photo: “Slums in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil” by World Resources is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0