Thomas Sowell : Where liberalism creates $1.5 million starter homes
The house is for sale at $1,498,000. It is a 1,010 square foot bungalow with two bedrooms, one bath and a garage. Although the announcement does not mention it, this bungalow is located near a commuter railroad line, with trains passing regularly throughout the day.
This house is not an aberration, and its price is not out of line with other housing prices in Palo Alto. One couple who had lived in their 1,200 square foot home in Palo Alto for 20 years decided to sell it, and posted an asking price just under $1.3 million.
Another Palo Alto house, this one with 1,292 square feet of space, is on the market for $2,285,000. It was built in 1895.
Even a vacant lot in Palo Alto costs more than a spacious middle-class home costs in most of the rest of the country.
In this part of California, liberalism reigns supreme and "open space" is virtually a religion. What that lovely phrase means is that there are vast amounts of empty land where the law forbids anybody from building anything.
Yet when my wife wrote in a local Palo Alto newspaper, many years ago, that preventing the building of housing would cause existing housing to become far too expensive for most people to afford it, she was deluged with more outraged letters than I get from readers of a nationally syndicated column.
There are people who claim that astronomical housing prices in places like Palo Alto and San Francisco are due to a scarcity of land. But there is enough vacant land ("open space") on the other side of the 280 Freeway that goes past Palo Alto to build another Palo Alto or two — except for laws and policies that make that impossible.
Housing prices in Palo Alto nearly quadrupled during that decade. This was not due to expensive new houses being built, because not a single new house was built in Palo Alto in the 1970s. The same old houses simply shot up in price.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is www.tsowell.com.
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