Letter: Still a case of supply and demand

Other local citizens can certainly commiserate with the Chico Public Works Employees (Front Page, December 9) on the matter of being able to afford to live within the city limits. But it’s unlikely that public employers, or the private sector for that matter, can raise wages fast enough or high enough to match the exploding cost of real estate.

The fact is that housing costs—whether purchase or rental—are subject to a forever limited supply against an ever-increasing demand. Those competing for and (directly and indirectly) bidding up the cost of available housing include not just local people but also burn scar evacuees, equity refugees from coastal California, foreign speculators, and newcomers from nations to the south, among others.

Unless some major and (for the privileged, at least) painful public policy initiatives are undertaken to once again spread home ownership widely through the working and lower-middle classes, we may find ourselves in a European model here in Chico. In countries such as France, Switzerland, and Belgium, for example, free standing house ownership in urban areas is reserved for the wealthy, professional, and managerial folks, while others must content themselves with condominiums, dense row houses, or lifelong status as apartment renters.

Possible public actions that might reverse some of this could be restrictions on foreign ownership of property; financial disincentives to own, but not occupy, single family residences; and implementation of long-term public lease options on land, so that a young family need only buy the house itself.

— Carl Ochsner, Chico


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