San Francisco Sunset

Writer Shane Phillips tackles a complicated issue in a recent blog post on Market Urbanism Report that really everyone should read.  Phillips is a self-described liberal who believes his fellow liberals are ruining American coastal cities.  He says when he considers how so many left leaning cities — like San Fran, New York, and D.C. — have such terrible housing situations, he’s filled with despair and hopelessness.  “It’s all the more frustrating because unaffordable housing might be the most important economic problem facing residents of liberal U.S. cities, and we’re perfectly, comprehensively, and unmistakably blowing it.”

How bad is it?  Well, in San Francisco, the median one-bedroom apartment renting for over $3,500.  According to the Huffington Post, “residents have been beset by evictions and rent hikes (sometimes in the triple digits) ― making offbeat “solutions” like living in a trucktent or wooden box almost seem reasonable.”

Phillips writes:

The causes of this failure are too numerous to ever fully enumerate in a single blog post, and, admittedly, some are out of the hands of cities themselves. But I don’t want to be too forgiving—state and federal policy plays a role, for example, but liberal U.S. cities are also typically located in liberal U.S. states, and federal policy applies equally to all, including the cities that have managed to remain affordable. There’s also the impact of global capitalism on a few world class cities, but it’s hard to feel genuine pity for places where foreign investors are willing to dump billions of dollars. Boo-hoo.

He then get specific.  “At it’s heart this is a problem of liberal governance and/or policy, and we need to face it head on. We can’t blame this on someone else. It’s our fault. There really is something inherently flawed in the way we’ve approached housing policy for the past several decades (at least), and I would argue that it comes down to a kind of cognitive dissonance on three key issues.:

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This is an important piece.  Here’s the money paragraph:

“By doing essentially nothing but letting things happen, conservative America is kicking our ass at providing opportunities for low income and working classes to build wealth and get ahead. Cities like Dallas, Phoenix, and Atlanta have managed to stay affordable by simply allowing housing to continue to be built as their populations grow, and the result is that people keep moving there.”

Though this might seem like an obvious conclusion to many people living in “red America” — that not putting unreasonable government restriction on housing makes it more affordable, for example — this is an important conversation for liberals to have.

Phillips ends his article in a devastatingly honest way:

So, this is the paradise we’ve built across the liberal cities of the United States. Are we proud? I’m not. We’ve walled off our cities to those of lesser and greater means, making pathetic, often subtly racist or classist arguments about “character” and “culture.” We’ve destroyed any possible opportunity for low income and working class households to build wealth in the same way as their affluent neighbors, or displaced the poor households so that they’re no longer neighbors at all. We’ve enabled the sprawling environmental destruction of cities like Phoenix or Las Vegas by failing to provide alternative, more desirable sites for new housing. We have failed, abjectly—and we’re too blinded by our own biases to change the course.

But hey, at least our hearts are in the right place.

Let’s hope this soul searching can make some changes in these bastions of liberalism.

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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