CASA: Housing Policy and Ideology

An integral part of Plan Bay Area 2040, was CASA – the Committee to House the Bay Area – a set of specific recommendations intended to address the Bay Area’s housing needs. Early this month, the CASA Steering Committee released a revised CASA Compact. Bob Silvestri, founder and president of Community Venture Partners, wrote a comprehensive and engaging analysis that appeared in the Marin Post on December 9. Some observations contained in Bob Silvestri’s report are worth highlighting:

The argument that unlimited growth will create affordable housing boils down to a belief that big government-controlled solutions are the best solutions, but that belief lacks any real world, post-World War II evidence. It claims that in order to help those who need affordable housing, we need more economically oppressive and highly regressive taxes and fees and fines collected from everyone, including those very same people they claim to want to help.

… the newly proposed CASA Housing Compact still doesn’t stop at taxing homeowners. It goes after all types of development and businesses and finally turns its sights on local government itself.

For developers of commercial space CASA will add $5 to $20 per sf for commercial development (depending on size) plus another $10 per sf new construction tax. Then if you put a business in that building, you will pay another $40 to $120 per person head tax (depending on the number of employees), plus another .1% to .75% tax on gross receipts. And your customers will also pay an additional 1/4% sales tax.

But not only is none of the CASA windfall going to go to your local government and agencies, but your town will also have to pony up.

CASA expects to raise $100 million from cities and counties by requiring them to share 20% of their future property tax incremental revenue growth. They also expect to reap another $200 million by requiring municipalities to create a “redevelopment revenue set aside” that takes away another 25% of that incremental revenue growth “for affordable housing” – though it’s not specified who will spend that money or how.

I’m compelled to ask, where do the drafters of the CASA Housing Compact think money to pay taxes comes from, and how do increased taxes help those most in need?

Excellent question! The article points to several other CASA proposals that would fail to pass an aptitude test. Enjoy the article:

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CASA CVP site

CASA's Housing Compact – How ideologically-driven policies will make housing less affordable

 By Bob Silvestri - December 9, 2018

Lately, it seems as if we are only being offered only unacceptable choices, regarding growth and planning and how to address our affordable housing challenges.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, we are at risk of drowning in the politically correct view that embracing big government and a no-holes-barred, hyper-growth agenda built on preposterous regional plans, is our only hope. This ideology claims that increased taxation and top-down control of growth and planning, combined with the removal of local zoning laws will unleash powerful market forces that will magically solve all our affordable housing problems.

In reaction to this big government agenda, the opposite view claims that the only solution is the deconstruction of all government on all levels: that less is more.

Unfortunately, both ideologies are clouded by emotion: the former being that life feels “unfair” and the latter by a longing for a past time that never actually existed – let’s call it the “fabulous 50s” fantasy.

But framing the argument in terms of more government versus less government entirely misses the point, which is that we need better government and more efficient and effective government. Size is not the issue so long as it is delivering bang for the buck and positively impacting the greatest number of people, which sadly, our present government at all levels is not.

Still, California’s uber-progressives led by San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener and his YIMBY shock troops, self-interested major tech corporations trying to off-load their needs onto the public ledger, academic think tanks, and an increasing number of powerful, “off ledger” quasi-governmental, unelected committees such as the Bay Area Council and CASA, The Committee to House the Bay Area, are united in their unwavering belief in centralized power and the market’s ability to produce socially equitable solutions. Read More