California Passes Statewide Rent Control

(p. A20) California lawmakers approved a statewide rent cap on Wednesday [Sept. 11, 2019] covering millions of tenants, the biggest step yet in a surge of initiatives to address an affordable-housing crunch nationwide.

The bill limits annual rent increases to 5 percent after inflation and offers new barriers to eviction, providing a bit of housing security in a state with the nation’s highest housing prices and a swelling homeless population.

. . .

“Caps on rent increases, like the one proposed in California or the one recently passed in Oregon, are part of a new generation of rent-regulation policies that are trying to thread the needle by offering some form of protection against egregious rent hikes for vulnerable renters without stymieing much-needed new housing construction,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, research director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California.

. . .

Even as more states begin to experiment with rent control, it has long existed in places like New York City, which intervened to address a housing shortage post-World War II, and San Francisco, where it was adopted in 1979.

Today it is common in many towns across New Jersey and in several cities in California, including Berkeley and Oakland, although the form differs by jurisdiction. Regulated apartments in New York City are mostly subject to rent caps even after a change in tenants, for example, while rent control in the Bay Area has no such provision.

In New York City, where almost half of the rental stock is regulated, a board determines the maximum rent increases each year; this year it approved a 1.5 percent cap on one-year leases, considerably lower than the limits passed in Oregon and California.

For the full story, see:

Conor Dougherty and Luis Ferré-Sadurní. “California Passes Statewide Rent Control in Effort to Ease Housing Crisis.” The New York Times (Thursday, September 12, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date Sept. 11, 2019, and has the title “California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis.” The online version says that the page of the New York print edition was A16. The page number in my National edition was A15.)

California Uber Regulation Reduces Drivers’ Freedom to Choose

(p. A27) Drivers are at the heart of the ride-share business. They’re also at the heart of the debate over a bill approved by California’s legislature, A.B. 5, which aims to solidify gig workers’ legal status as employees. Uber and Lyft have always classified drivers as independent contractors. But many lawsuits over the years, by drivers and others, have put that classification under question. A.B.5 is intended to help drivers by creating a set of criteria under which Uber or Lyft drivers could be considered employees of those companies, and therefore entitled to the benefits and protections of employees.

So why would some drivers be against it?

I spent nearly a year driving part time for Uber and Lyft, and then left my job as an engineer to cover the industry full-time through my blog “The Rideshare Guy.” After thousands of conversations with drivers, I’ve found that while they come from all walks of life, one of the main reasons they value this work is flexibility. As a driver, you can work almost as much or as little as you want, cash out your pay instantly, take a break at a moment’s notice, or even go on a six-month vacation. This flexibility and that feeling of not having a boss makes ride-hail driving stand out in the vast array of service jobs and low-wage work.

For the full commentary, see:

Harry Campbell. “Uber Drivers Just Want to Be Free.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 17, 2019): A27.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 16, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

Cost of Housing Is Main Driver of Migration from Superstar Cities

(p. B1) Last month the Census Bureau confirmed a confounding dynamic taking hold across the American landscape: Superstar cities, the nation’s economic powerhouses, hotbeds of opportunity at the cutting edge of technological progress, are losing people to other parts of the country.

For the first time in at least a decade, 4,868 more people left King County, Wash. — Amazon’s home — than arrived from elsewhere in the country.

Santa Clara County, Calif., home to most of Silicon Valley, lost 24,645 people to domestic migration, its ninth consecutive annual loss.

The trend is becoming widespread. Eight of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the country, including those around New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, lost people to other places in 2018. That was up from seven in 2016, five in 2013 and four in 2010. Migration out of the New York area has gotten so intense that its total population shrank in 2018 for the second year in a row.

. . .

(p. B5) Research by Peter Ganong from the University of Chicago and Daniel Shoag of Harvard suggests that housing costs are a principal driver of the change in migration decisions: As the highly educated have flocked to superstar cities, they have pushed housing prices way beyond the reach of people earning less. Continue reading “Cost of Housing Is Main Driver of Migration from Superstar Cities”

Firms Moving from Silicon Valley to Texas

(p. A3) SAN FRANCISCO–California’s economy is adding jobs far faster than affordable places to live, forcing some employers to leave the state as they expand.
. . .
Karen Holian, 44 years old, joined the startup Lottery.com when it was founded here in 2015. Though a San Francisco native, Ms. Holian, a marketing manager, was excited when the company last year moved to Austin, Texas, because she could finally plan to buy a home.
“In San Francisco, that never seemed like a possibility,” she said. A mother of two, she is for now renting a four-bedroom house for $2,000 a month, a third of what a comparable place costs in her hometown.
Lottery.com CEO Tony DiMatteo said that as the company grew, he found it difficult to persuade current and prospective employees to move to the area. “We can give them a much better bang for their buck if we’re not in San Francisco,” he said.
. . .
Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said CEOs tell him “that any new job that doesn’t absolutely need to be in the Bay Area is located outside of the Bay Area.” The public-policy advisory group counts some 360 companies, including Silicon Valley’s largest, as members.
. . .
Texas has drawn more companies leaving California over the past decade than any other state, according to research by Joe Vranich, a relocation consultant who encourages businesses to leave California.
Housing costs are “a major selling point for us,” said Mike Rosa, senior vice president of economic development for the Dallas Regional Chamber. “It’s a factor in just about every [relocation] search we see.”

For the full story, see:
Nour Malas. “Firms Quit California Over Costs.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, March 20, 2019): A3.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added; bracketed word, in original.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 19, 2019, and has the title “California Has the Jobs but Not Enough Homes.” The sentence quoting Karen Holian appeared in the online, but not the print, version.)

Entrepreneur Shafer Learned from Sweet Serendipitous Mistake

(p. 24) John Shafer, who abandoned a career as a Chicago publishing executive to join the vanguard of a new generation of vintners in California’s Napa Valley, died on March 2 [2019] in the city of Napa.
. . .
Mr. Shafer (pronounced SHAY-fer) was 47 when he resolved to acquire a winery as an absentee owner and one day retire as a gentleman farmer. His horticultural experience had been limited to planting flowers in his front yard.
But within six months of that decision, he took a leap. He left his job at what he described as an ossified company to take up a second career in which he could be his own boss and work outdoors.
. . .
. . . as a newcomer to the Napa Valley, which was just beginning to attract winemakers who popularized individual vineyards, he had neglected to hire a sufficient number of grape-pickers far enough in advance. That left the fruit riper — and sweeter — than the industry norm when the grapes were harvested.
“Shafer thought he ruined his wine, but instead it turned out to be the ripe signature style that has defined Shafer wines for the past four decades,” Wine Spectator magazine said.

For the full obituary, see:
Sam Roberts. “John Shafer, Executive Turned Winemaker, Dies at 94.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, March 10, 2019): 24.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date March 7, 2019, and has the title “John Shafer, 94, Who Made Triumphant Leap Into Winemaking, Dies.”)

.

“Artificial Barriers to Housing Production”

(p. A3) America’s housing shortage is more wide-ranging than cloistered coastal markets, stretching from pricey locales such as California and Massachusetts to more surprising places, such as Arizona and Utah.
Some 22 states and the District of Columbia have built too little housing to keep up with economic growth in the 15 years since 2000, resulting in a total shortage of 7.3 million units, according to research to be released Monday by an advocacy group for loosening building regulations.
California bears half of the blame for the shortage: The state built 3.4 million too few units to keep up with job, population and income growth.
. . .
“The artificial barriers to housing production aren’t constrained just to California,” said Mike Kingsella, executive director of the Up For Growth National Coalition. “As we dug into the numbers behind this, at a local market level, we’re seeing a pronounced affordability challenge in places like even Arizona.”
Arizona and Utah are among the states that have built too little housing in the 15-year period, according to the report.

For the full story, see:
Laura Kusisto. “Shortages in Housing Are Widespread.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, April 17, 2018): A3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 16, 2018, and has the title “Homebuilding Isn’t Keeping Up With Growth, Development Group Says.”)

Robots Help Montoya Fulfill His Father’s Wish for Him to Avoid Manual Labor

(p. A15) SALINAS, Calif. — As a boy, Abel Montoya remembers his father arriving home from the lettuce fields each evening, the picture of exhaustion, mud caked knee-high on his trousers. “Dad wanted me to stay away from manual labor. He was keen for me to stick to the books,” Mr. Montoya said. So he did, and went to college.
Yet Mr. Montoya, a 28-year-old immigrant’s son, recently took a job at a lettuce-packing facility, where it is wet, loud, freezing — and much of the work is physically taxing, even mind-numbing.
Now, though, he can delegate some of the worst work to robots.
Mr. Montoya is among a new generation of farmworkers here at Taylor Farms, one of the world’s largest producers and sellers of fresh-cut vegetables, which recently unveiled a fleet of robots designed to replace humans — one of the agriculture industry’s latest answers to a diminishing supply of immigrant labor.
The smart machines can assemble 60 to 80 salad bags a minute, double the output of a worker.
Enlisting robots made sound economic sense, Taylor Farms officials said, for a company seeking to capitalize on Americans’ insatiable appetite for healthy fare at a time when it cannot recruit enough people to work in the fields or the factory.

For the full story, see:
Miriam Jordan. “Farms Turn to Robots as Labor Pool Shrinks.”The New York Times (Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018): A15.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 20, 2018, and has the title “As Immigrant Farmworkers Become More Scarce, Robots Replace Humans.”)