When he’s not pulling stunts like flying planeloads of undocumented Venezuelan immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard just to own the libs who might be finishing their summer vacations there, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is busy advancing other notions aimed at advancing a possible presidential bid.
A move to force cities in his state to abandon their plans to reform zoning laws in order to grow affordable housing is, to say the least, not one of his better ideas.
Earlier this month, Reason magazine reports, “Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) sent a comment letter to Lauren Poe, Gainesville’s mayor, recommending that the city withdraw a provisionally approved zoning amendment that allows two-, three-, and four-unit homes to be built in neighborhoods that were once zoned exclusively for single-family homes.”
Florida, like California, is in the midst of a housing-affordability crisis that is seeing formerly middle-class neighborhoods suddenly become places in which only those who can afford seven-figure houses can hope to find a home.
Fine, sort of, for those who bought low and can now sell high — but what are the prospects, for instance, for their children to be able to hope to live in the cities in which they grew up?
There is an incredible American — and international — demand to be able to live in warm-winter places throughout the country. In the future, those places are not going to look precisely the same as they do today, unless we want to allow only multi-millionaires to live there.
“I find it interesting that probably the most progressive [city] commission in the state of Florida is pushing to allow more property rights to bring down housing prices,” said Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, who supported the city’s zoning reforms, Reason reports. “A Republican executive branch under DeSantis is trying to stop people having more property rights.”
It’s true — free-market rights such as these were a traditionally GOP cause. They could — and should — be, going forward.
Yes in My Back Yard is the rather wonderfully named movement that aims to counter too many decades of NIMBYism that has led to housing shortages throughout the nation. Americans want to be able to build granny flats without the nanny state saying no — or piling on so many development fees and regulations that a home for grandmother close to your own is impossible.
Housing activists call this the “missing middle” approach to a new look for our cities and suburbs.
In our own state, that infill housing will be furthered after the successful passage of SB 9 and SB 10, which will allow for both more duplexes in formerly single-family California neighborhoods and for cities and counties to pass more housing-friendly zoning ordinances of their own.
In reality, the move is nothing entirely new. “We’re headed to an era when we’re going to see more of that gentle in-fill housing that was legal in California up until the 1970s and ‘80s,” Matt Lewis, communications director for California YIMBY, told Reason after the passage of the bills in 2021 “This is really sort of a Back to the Future week for California housing policy.”
And there are reasonable exceptions to our state’s new guidelines. The newly allowable density doesn’t apply to lots with fewer than 2,400 square feet, or to neighborhoods in historic districts.
But we have to do things differently if we want our children and grandchildren to live where we do. American politicians need to understand this, and make bold plans for the future rather than taking the well-trodden path of doing nothing at all.