Topic: Housing
July 30, 2017

A constant tenet of Marin County’s guiding ethos is resistance to growth, manifesting itself in a kind of environmental apartheid. Under the guise of preserving a serene environment, Marin County’s residents and politicians use every means possible to avoid building new housing that would allow more population growth, particularly low- or moderate-income dwellings. They’ve been remarkably successful. Between 1969 and 2015, while California’s population was doubling, Marin County’s grew by just 28.4 percent. . . . When California’s housing shortfall became acute and the state government started getting serious about the housing quotas it had been assigning to communities, Marin County’s assemblyman, Democrat Marc Levine, carried a 2014 bill to exempt it from quotas until 2023, arguing that Marin needed more time to get it right. However, without waiting for a scheduled report on the county’s progress on meeting its housing quotas, Levine persuaded legislative leaders last month to insert into a budget “trailer bill” (Senate Bill 106) a brief passage that extends Marin County’s exemption from quotas for an additional five years, until 2028.

July 28, 2017

A developer wants to build 4,400 new homes there — one of the largest projects recently proposed in one of the country’s most unaffordable regions. The development would overlook a railway that drops riders into the heart of San Francisco in 15 minutes, reducing the need for cars and cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that come from them. State and regional leaders have endorsed the project. But its fate rests with Brisbane, a city of 4,700 people that annexed the property 55 years ago. And no one, not even the developer, thinks Brisbane’s residents will approve all 4,400 homes.


Using linked housing and tax records from Denmark combined with a major reform of the mortgage interest deduction in the late 1980s, we carry out the first comprehensive long-term study of how tax subsidies affect housing decisions. The reform introduced a large and sharp reduction in the mortgage deduction for top-rate taxpayers, while reducing it much less or not at all for lower-rate taxpayers. We present three main findings. First, the mortgage deduction has a precisely estimated zero effect on homeownership. This holds even in the very long run. Second, the mortgage deduction has a sizeable impact on housing demand at the intensive margin, inducing homeowners to buy larger and more expensive houses. Third, the largest effect of the mortgage deduction is on household financial decisions, inducing them to increase indebtedness. These findings suggest that the mortgage interest deduction distorts the behavior of homeowners at the intensive margin, but is ineffective at promoting homeownership at the extensive margin and any externalities that may be associated with it.        

July 26, 2017

Pricey rents in California’s hottest housing markets – San Francisco and Silicon Valley – are continuing to soar, and new data out this month suggests rising costs in major metropolitan areas are driving people out to search for cheaper living elsewhere. The real estate firm Yardi Matrix analyzed trends across California, and found rents are rising faster in Sacramento and the Central Valley than any other part of the state.

July 25, 2017

In many corners of Southern California, home prices have hit record highs. And they keep going up. In Los Angeles County, the median price in June jumped 7.4% from a year earlier to $569,000, surpassing the previous record set in May. In Orange County, the median was up 6.1% from 2016 and tied a record reached the previous month at $695,000. Across the six-county region, the median price — the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less — rose 7.5% from a year earlier and is now just 1% off of its all-time high of $505,000 reached in 2007, according to a report out Tuesday from CoreLogic.

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