Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The NIMBY versus the PINATA Cliche of the California Housing Affordability Crisis

Introducing "Politically Protected Immigrant neighborhoods"

By Wayne Lusvardi

There are numerous factors that reportedly contribute to the so-called housing affordability crisis in California: lack of land, high development fees and exactions, open space and environmental requirements which didn't exist in prior decades, no more infrastructure financing from surrounding homeowners after Prop. 13, etc.

But, perhaps, there is another factor that has gone mostly unrecognized: the dominant academic and media paradigm from which we see the affordable housing crisis. It is the paradigm best known by the acronym "NIMBY" (Not-In-My-Back-Yard-ism). Government officials, developers and activists all agree that the most significant obstacle faced when trying to build affordable housing is community opposition.

This paradigm is based on the notions that the housing affordability crisis results from the profit motive coupled with NIMBY-ism and lack of laws mandating affordable housing. In this view, when housing demand exceeds supply only government can provide affordable housing to low income people by expropriation from real estate developers and the productive class. But is this so? Is community opposition the key road block to creating affordable housing? Or is it a symptom of a larger mostly unrecognized problem?

A problem with the NIMBY paradigm is that the housing affordability crisis can typically be found in communities where there also are politically Protected Immigrant Neighborhoods (PIN's), usually in neighborhoods comprised of smaller, older housing stock. Such neighborhoods have historically been the first rung on the housing affordability ladder for first-time buyers. Activists and politicians in these Protected Immigrant Neighborhoods have used liberal eviction laws and courts, housing discrimination laws, anti-deportation laws, threats of urban riots, high property crime rates, court decisions (Serrano vs. Priest) and the bully-pulpit of local Leftist newspapers to deter first-time home buyers and renters; and to create living space for a politically protected class. First-time home buyers are thus forced out to the hinterlands to find affordable housing; which only further congests our freeways.

One of the consequences of jamming immigrants into immigrant magnet neighborhoods is that housing prices and rents are inflated by immigrants doubling up in old housing stock. The only market power that low income immigrants typically have is numbers. This turns the Marxist view upside down, because it is the "Proletariat," not the "Bourgeouisie" that are inflating housing costs by "rentrification" (not "gentrification").

NIMBY is more than an acronym, it is a political cliche which is more persuasive than any formal academic theory. A cliche does not give an altogether truthful picture of reality. Cliches often function to obscure the breakdown of institutions, such as housing markets, whose stability has been overwhelmed by immigration. Cliches, such as NIMBY, fill our absence of knowledge about what really causes the housing affordability crisis. Once a cliche is firmly established in the minds of the public, it attains the status of taken-for-granted truth and is very difficult to dislodge even by clear empirical counter-evidence. This is what sociologists call "cognitive dissonance" ("I have made up my mind don't confuse me with the facts;" "Bush lied, people died"). The popularity of a cliche does not depend on the amount of the quality of evidence for it, but on the way it meets the social and psychic needs of a particular situation.

The NIMBY cliche is not benign or morally neutral. It is a negatively loaded term. Who benefits from the distortion of reality from the NIMBY cliche? I think I know the answer: it benefits those who understand the housing affordability crisis as an agenda of utopianism that is held by the political Left. It is those on the political Left who hypocritically claim to be the champions of the poor in combatting the housing affordability crisis; a crisis they have principally manufactured themselves with the assistance of the media by creating and maintaining politically Protected Immigrant Neighborhoods.

According to the NIMBY cliche, NIMBY's are not just those trying to protect the nest-eggs of their home values, they are also considered evil. And because they are evil this gives a moral rationale for confiscating their homes by eminent domain often for other than pure public purposes. Or it gives a rationale for imposing compulsory increases in rents on some to subsidize the rents of others. Or it provides a rationale for shaking down landowners for 50% of the value of their land by Inclusionary Housing laws. Or it is justification for rent control so that NIMBY landlords can not evict tenants which represent some political constituency to a politician.

The NIMBY cliche will not likely be abandoned on the basis of empirical evidence alone. But perhaps an antidote would be an anti-cliche, such as PINATA (Protected Immigrant Neighborhoods Always Takeover Affordable housing). The word "PINATA" is not used here to cast Mexican immigrants in an equally negative or evil light but to focus our attention on the larger reality behind the affordable housing crisis. Perhaps, by use of a reverse-cliche such as PINATA, we can see how negatively loaded and distorting the term NIMBY is.

A pinata is a Mexican paper-mache sculpture filled with candy, designed to be bludgeoned by children until the candy tumbles out. A "Meat Pinata" is defined by as:

"Meat Pinata is a "victim of aggravated assault, a person beaten repeatedly."

It is time to stop using NIMBY's as "MEAT PINATAS" in our public policies, State Housing Elements, Inclusionary Housing laws, building regulations, and eminent domain actions. However, this is not an invitation to bash immigrants (God bless them). It is an invitation for a clearer and more realistic lexicon and paradigm about our affordable housing policies.

It is time to stop using cliches to avoid uncomfortable truths. It is time to stop using using the NIMBY cliche to advocate affordable housing on one hand while creating politically Protected Immigrant Neighborhoods that remove the most affordable housing supply from first time homebuyers and working class renters in communities on the other hand. It's time to take the mask off of all the affordable housing advocates, pandering politicians, phony academic affordable housing experts, government planners, and self-righteous religious activists who are only worsening the affordable housing situation by denying the existence of the metaphorical 1000 pound pinata blocking the doorway to affordable housing.

A possible starting point would be the initiation of lawsuits against communities to invalidate Inclusionary Housing laws and Housing Elements of General Land Use Plans and other affordable housing policies when 10% to 35% or more of the population are low income migrants living in politically Protected Immigrant Neighborhoods. How can there be an affordable housing crisis for the poor when such a large proportion of the population in many cities are low income migrants who somehow find affordable housing?

The principal generator of cliches, the mass media, would be another good starting point to changing our vested ideas about affordable housing. But since we can't count on any change with the agenda-driven media either, perhaps we need a counter cliche such as PINATA - Protected Immigrant Neighborhoods Always Takeover Affordable housing.


That she is a vocal lesbian had nothing to do with it, of course

A senior British officer involved in the killing of a Brazilian mistaken for a suicide bomber on a London underground train was promoted today to a top policing job, looking after the royal family's safety. Cressida Dick was in charge of the operation that led to Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, being shot seven times in the head on an underground train at Stockwell station in south London in July 2005. His family said they are "disgusted" by Ms Dick's promotion.

The shooting came amid frenzy in London over the threat of suicide bombers. Two weeks earlier four British Islamists had blown themselves up on three underground trains and a bus, killing 52 people, and detectives say that the day before the shooting five other suspects had attempted to carry out copycat attacks.

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), which oversees the London force, said, despite "unprecedented circumstances", Ms Dick had been promoted to the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissioner. Her job, which begins on March 19, has responsibility for the protection of the royal family and other senior individuals. "Having considered these circumstances, we are satisfied that our decision to confirm promotion is the right one to take at this time," said Len Duvall, the MPA's chairman. "The MPA is keenly aware that the people of London must have confidence in the police who work, in what are often difficult circumstances, to protect them. "By confirming this promotion we are making it clear that the officer retains our full confidence."

The family of Mr de Menezes said they were angry at the news. "The idea that police officers who were responsible for Jean's killing are being promoted makes me feel sick," said Patricia da Silva Armani, one of Jean's cousins. "I do not understand how people who kill innocent civilians are allowed to carry on working as if nothing has happened. To promote her is disgraceful."

Last July the BBC reported the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), had recommended Ms Dick face criminal action for her handling of the operation. However, prosecutors decided no police officers involved in the incident should face action. The Crown Prosecution Service instead ruled the London force as a whole should be prosecuted under health and safety laws. Britain's top court, the House of Lords, will rule on a judicial review of the CPS decision not to hold any individual officers responsible after an appeal by Mr de Menezes's family. The full IPCC report into the shooting will not be made public until that legal action is completed.



One has to wonder what the Founding Fathers would have thought about a group of people who would purposely choose to stifle dissent in the face of heated issues just to advance their ideological quest for control. What would they think of those who would purposely avoid engaging in meaningful, fact-based debate, devoid of spin and rhetoric instead promoting only their idea of the truth sans credible examination? Considering that they spilled blood to water the tree of liberty, it wouldn't be a stretch to think they would consider this group contrary to everything the United States stands for.

Today, centuries after patriots gave life and limb to secure independence from just such political tyranny we are seeing it manifest among our own citizens in the form of ideological bigotry. On issue after issue we are faced with the bullhorn mentality of the "Me-First Contingent," America's Fifth Column. Two glaring examples of the Fifth Column's fingers-in-the-ears ideological bigotry can be seen in the issues of global warming and the catalyst for the Iraqi conflict.

People have their opinions about both of these subjects and everyone is entitled. But it is to the extent that the opinion emanates from fact-based knowledge and not from ideological propaganda that its worth is assessed. Turning up the volume on the "I know you are but what am I" bullhorn of ignorance doesn't eliminate the fact that one either is learned on a subject or isn't. It is because of this that the debate over global warming and the catalyst for the Iraqi conflict expose the great underbelly of American ignorance.

I can't count how many times I have heard elected officials, news anchors, pundits and average Americans advance the false notion that the only reason we engaged in this conflict in Iraq was weapons of mass destruction. It leads me to believe that all the information they acquired on the topic came from a third, fourth or fifth party rather than the source.

It is factually ignorant to believe that the premier reason the US went to war in Iraq was because of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Saddam Hussein's WMD program - which included the manufacturing of conventional long range missiles - was the fourth reason given; genocide, the failure to release prisoners of war and the failure to renounce all terror activities being the first three. This doesn't take into account the fact that Hussein routinely violated the ceasefire agreement that brought the Gulf War hostilities to an end.

The reason why WMD became the focus of the Fifth Column was because stockpiles - stockpiles - of biochemical weaponry weren't discovered. Our forces did in fact find banned weaponry but not in the stockpiles that would have been needed to satisfy anti-war activists and Bush-haters. So, the media rolled with the "no WMD" mantra even though it was fundamentally false and the Fifth Column ate it up.

But consider if we would have had an honest, open and fact-based debate about the catalyst for going to war in Iraq. If the genocide that Saddam Hussein had been perpetrating against his people would have been given as much importance as the WMD issue it is hard to believe that today's efforts in Iraq would be as viciously condemned as they are.

We are seeing the same one-sided, bullhorn mentality where the issue of global warming is concerned. Much has been written about global warming recently and I, for one, am all for an open, honest and fact-based debate on whether or not man is making a significant contribution to the demise of the planet. Sadly, those with control over the media, along with their agenda-driven friends at the United Nation and environmental activists, are as keen on open, honest fact-based debate as Saddam was on going to the gallows.

When the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued their latest report - or any of the first three for that matter - how prevalent was the information that the release was a Summary for Policy Makers sans any scientific data? Was the fact ever trumpeted that the IPCC is a politically-based panel sponsored by the United Nations? Did the news media offer the American people information on pressure that was exerted by the Clinton/Gore Administration to manipulate verbiage in the first assessment's final report to reflect a more dire situation than really existed? Has the news media or global warming proponents ever acknowledged that there are a plethora of scientists who do not subscribe to the theory of man-influenced global warming or the dire predictions for the demise of our planet?

Sadly, the answers to all of these questions are in the negative. The suppressing of any credible debate on this issue is in full-swing complete with a propaganda movie by Al Gore that contains facts that have already been debunked, an environmental magazine calling for Nuremberg-style trials for global warming skeptics and CBS News "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley comparing skeptics to Holocaust deniers.

But consider if we would have had an honest, open and fact-based debate on this issue, devoid of political manipulation. Perhaps that debate would have allowed the voices of 60 scientists who wrote to the Canadian Prime Minister asserting that the "science" of global warming was crumbling in the face of the facts:

"Observational evidence does not support today's computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future.Significant [scientific] advances have been made since the [Kyoto] protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary."

Yet, the volume from those of the bullhorn mentality continues to increase stifling all dissent, rendering impossible the honest, open, fact-based debate needed to arrive at a true consensus on these issues. Just like the person who only reads the first paragraph of a news item and then claims to know the entire story, the Fifth Column in America is miserably ignorant of the facts and simply doesn't care to explore any possibilities that might invalidate their beliefs.

If I had to place blame on any one source for this pig-headed ignorance I would have to place it at the feet of those who believe good self-esteem can be bestowed instead of earned and those who congruently adhere to the "it takes a village" mentality. Truth be told, if it does take a village to raise a child then someone should call the Department of Children and Family Services because our children are being abused and the village is responsible.


Australia: Federal government warns Muslim haters of citizenship loss

Dual citizens who work to divide Australia rather than unite it should be stripped of their Australian citizenship, Treasurer Peter Costello said today. "If somebody is an Australian citizen and also, let's say, an Egyptian citizen and that person doesn't support what this country stands for... I think we'd be within our rights to say to that person, well, Australia's not for you," Mr Costello told Macquarie Radio.

The comments come after the uproar started by Australia's Islamic leader Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilali who compared Australian women to uncovered meat and also claimed Muslim Australians had more right to live in Australia than Anglo-Saxons, the majority of which are descendants of convicts. "You get into a difficult situation if they're not dual citizens, because at that point, if you take away Australian citizenship they're not a citizen of anywhere, they've got nowhere to go."

But Mr Costello said burning the Australian flag should not be outlawed. "I hate people burning the Australian flag," Mr Costello told Macquarie Radio. "It makes me sick in my stomach but then you think to yourself, these people are disaffected people, some of them are just plain bad people, I wouldn't want to make them martyrs."


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