“Right to live where you work” is inane

A map that shows “rent affordability” in neighborhoods in San Francisco has been making the rounds, and is prompting people to say inane shit like:

I’d say the premise is that people who work in SF should have a right to live in SF.

Or marginally less silly phrasings that mean the same thing, like:

It’d be a shame if we said it was a luxury to avoid long commutes.

But, I mean, how would a right to live near where you work, uh, work?  First of all, what constitutes “near”?  And why?  If I have a “right” to live within 10 miles of my work, why do I not have a right to live within 9 miles, or 5 miles, or 1 mile?  Any line you draw is going to be purely arbitrary to the point of sillyness.

Second, how do we generate this housing supply?  Clearly, rent control does not produce the kind of idyllic world imagined by the people concerned by this situation — San Francisco is rent controlled.  Are we going to build housing projects?  That has, uh, not been historically an enormously successful policy, but even laying that aside, where would we build them?  The entire point is that SF is a city that has historically resisted development (and if you actually want to reduce housing prices, the sane way to do it is to allow development — and understand that said development may damage the “character” of the city) — are you going to eminent-domain away the existing insanely expensive real estate?  Eminent domain requires compensation — where’s the money coming from?

Third, how easily gameable is this system?  Are you going to say that anyone who gets a 1 month stint at any SF company is now qualified for some kind of housing assistance?  What if they promptly quit their job after getting the reward?  Are you going to evict them?

By the way, the idea that a minimum wage job is some kind of appropriate denomination for that map is silly as well — at least, as long as you’re trying to draw general lessons from it, rather than narrowly speaking about the fairly rare case of independently living people who persistently make minimum wage.  And the “neighborhoods” are way too big to be useful.


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