California declares land war on families

April 18, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

Everyone knows that California has water wars.  But it also has land wars. And one of the biggest battles is the state’s land war against zoning for the suburban single family home. And a war against single-family homes is a war against suburban families.

California’s shift in housing policy from stand-alone, single-family homes to multifamily units — apartments and condominiums — is an attempt to correct forecasted demographic imbalances between the old and the young. But is the demographic imbalance of too few young adults to support the entitlements of the elderly merely a problem for centralized planners?

CA’s Land War on the Family

Demographer Wendell Cox has recently compiled persuasive statistics that California has “declared war” on the single-family detached home.

California is planning to compel cities to zone land in the San Francisco Bay area so that more than two-thirds of all new housing construction would be for multi-family housing.  In Southern California, central planning agencies want to require more than one half of all new housing to be located in very high density “public transit villages” (30 units per acre).   The typical density for single-family homes is 4 per acre–the equivalent of a city lot of about 7,500 to 10,000 square feet.

The reason behind such a shift in housing policy is the decline in the proportion of intact, self-sufficient families to support the elderly.

California Intact Families Have Declined   

Like the rest of the United States, the number of intact self-sufficient families in California has leveled off or declined over the past few decades.  The number of “Married Couple Families with Own Children” has declined by 121,260 families or 2.9 percent in California since 2000. (See Column F in the table below.)

Meanwhile, the percentage of single-family detached homes has declined in California by 0.3 percent relative to the population increase. (Column C in the table below.)

The proportion of the elderly has declined in California by 4.4 percent since 2000 (See Column E.)

But the number of young adults age 20 to 44 has also declined by 2.9 percent. (Column F.)

The ratio of all young adults to the elderly has declined from 4.1 young adults for every 1 elderly person in 2000 to 3.8 young adults foe every 1 senior in 2010 (Column I.)

The ratio of young intact families to the elderly has dropped from 2 to 1 in 2000 to 1.7 to 1 in 2010.  (Column H.)

However, the policy of emphasizing multifamily housing over single-family housing would run against the grain of historical housing preferences and open markets.

Most People Want to Live in Single Family Homes 

The National Association of Home Builders has tracked the historical ratio of newly built single-family and multi-family housing units.

In 1984 the trend in new housing construction was for about 2 single family detached homes to be built for every 1 apartment or condo unit. By 2010, that ratio rose to about 5 homes for every 1 apartment or condo unit.

This was long past the period when the Baby Boomers were making families.  So the boom in single-family home construction was not entirely driven by the Baby Boomers.  Thus, California’s shift to more multifamily housing is not all related to a decline in Baby Boomers buying houses.  It has more to do with Baby Boomers retiring.

But what would this shift from two-thirds single family housing to two-thirds multifamily housing construction do to California’s economy?

California’s Family Economy and Obamacare

As pointed out by many prominent economists, the U.S. economy is dependent on the relative proportion of young self-sufficient families to the elderly.  Intact, self-sufficient families produce young people who eventually take out mortgages and small business loans.  In doing so, they provide the elderly with an interest rate return on their savings and pension investments.  This intergenerational cycle of exchange of loans for interest rates is what makes the market economy work.

However, if there are not enough intact self-sufficient families to produce the next generation of homebuyers and small businesspersons then the economy stagnates.  This is what has happened since about 1970.   This is why jobs have declined in the United States and California (other than THE artificial jobs created during the Housing Bubble of the mid-2000s before it burst).

There is a demographic imbalance of too few two-parent/two-child self-sufficient households to pay the elderly a return on their savings.

Thus, Obamacare has surfaced as a way to compel young adults to buy health insurance so that the elderly can have their health care subsidized.  The average premium for individual health care insurance was $4,940 per year in 2010.  Obamacare is estimated to increase health insurance premiums by up to 30 percent, to $6,422.  Young adults could elect to pay a fine of up to $695 by 2016 instead of buying health insurance.  But then this would be nothing but a ruse for a new tax.

The elderly have six times the health care costs of the young.  Obamacare would put a cap on the amount of health care costs of the elderly at 3 times what insurers charge young adults.

This is why California says it is going to move ahead with its own version of Obamacare, even if this june the U.S. Supreme Court throws out the individual mandate to buy insurance.

And for California to bring this about, it also must shift housing policy from building single-family homes to building mostly multifamily homes for young adults.  It must build a demographic base of young people to support health care for the elderly, because there are not enough young intact families to do so anymore.

Obamacare Bakes Stagnation Into the Economic Cake

Let’s assume the U.S. Supreme Court validates the “individual mandate” of Obamacare, or declares it a matter for each state to decide. Obamacare would replace the existing intergenerational voluntary exchange system with a system of forced taxation of the young. What this will do is bake stagnation into the economic cake.

Young adults were never previously required to carry health insurance. To come up with about $6,000 per year for health insurance will mean fewer young adults will have money to buy cars or homes or start their own businesses.  The intergenerational cycle of the market economy would waffle out of balance even more.  Buying houses and cars and other big-ticket consumer items would decline. There would be less disposable income.

Home ownership historically has defined entry into the middle class.  By limiting homeownership opportunities, there may be less socio-economic mobility for the young.   The young would become nothing more than the modern equivalent of “tenant farmers” for taxes.

What centralized land planning offers is limited options of where to live. And it would freeze out Californians from the opportunity of home ownership.  Obamacare, coupled with California’s centralized land planning, will limit housing options for most people to apartments or condominiums.

With Obamacare will come an even greater decline of the bourgeoisie family that is essential to a market economy. What makes economically productive families is not government policies or planning but social capital.  Government central planners and regulatory czars can’t generate the kind of social capital needed to produce economically enterprising families.

Central Planning Has Failed

Should we leave housing and health care up to central planners, or devise more market-based solutions to address the problem?  As shown with the Housing Bubble, central planning often has eventual catastrophic unintended consequences.  Economist Guy Sorman notes that centralized planning hasn’t worked anywhere it has been tried.

The Housing Bubble policy of  “easy money” mortgages tried to create artificial jobs and put renters into ownership housing to correct this demographic imbalance.  This ruined the financial and banking systems, caused a bank panic in 2008, and diluted the value of the dollar.  It has also decimated government and school district budgets and pension plans.  Central planning has a bad track record.

What is behind the states’ new housing policies is California Senate Bill SB 375, the anti-urban sprawl bill signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008.  Together with California’s version of Obamacare, it would limit future housing and health care cost options, especially for younger families.  Californians need to know that state anti-urban sprawl legislation and likely state health care insurance mandates will limit their freedom of choice and resign California to nearly permanent economic stagnation.

California’s Family and Housing Economy 2000 and 2010 

2000 2010 Percent   Change
A Total   Population 33,871,648 37,691,912 +11.3%
B No.   Two Parent Families w/own Children 2,989,974
2,977,944(24%) -12,030
-12,030 (-2%)
C No.   Detached Single Family Housing Units 6,883,493
D Median   Family Size 3.43 3.48 +0.05
E No.   ElderlyAge   65-84 3,171,059(9.4%) 3,502,537(5.0%) +331,478(-4.4%)


No.   Married Couple Families w/Own Children under 18 yrs. old 3,099,204(26.9%) 2,977,944
G No.   Young Adults Age 20 – 44 13,183,621
H Ratio   of Young Intact Families to Elderly 2 to   1 1.7   to 1 -0.3   to 1
I Ratio   of All Young Adults to Elderly 4.1   to 1 3.8   to 1 -0.3   to 1
J Median   Family Income $53,025 $69,322 +2.72%/year
K Median   Household Income $47,453 $60,883 +2.52%/year
L Per   Capita Income $22,711 $29,188 +2.54%/year
M CPI   Change $1.00 $1.27 2.42%/year


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  1. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 18 April, 2012, 11:32

    LOL— So tired of the new dull normal “war on…” cliche mantra used by the non thinking right (and sometimes left)….yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn.

    Where did the crisp cogent Republican party of W.F. Buckley go?

    Reply this comment
  2. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 18 April, 2012, 11:43

    Welcome to the world of Twitter and titles to articles limited to 45 total characters!! And modern journalism means writing for a tenth grade educated audience because that is the reading level of our elected decision makers.


    Reply this comment
  3. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 18 April, 2012, 11:50

    This is just another reminder that the quality of life for the average American continues to get flushed down the toilet. And it’s not all about demographics either. The average wage has been stagnant for the last 12 years and the serfs are having a hard time making ends meet – as inflation continues to go higher and higher (look at your gas and grocery bill!) The ruling class understand that in a few years 50% of ‘the commoners’ will either be delivering pizzas or punching a cash register at WalMart for a living. San Fransico is not exempt from this trend. Those people are going to have to live somewhere. The answer is to build crackerjack boxes and pile people on top of one another. These are like ‘project housing’ but they won’t call them that. They will devise some fancy respectable name to fool you. Like ‘new-wave confort living homes’. Any of you who have traveled to Russia or eastern Europe know the drill. Eventually they will want to tear down the detached single family homes to make room for more gas stations and banks and pizza parlors and Walmarts so they can entice you to buy more cheap chinese crap. This is the new American trend. Not indigenous to SF. Prepare wisely. And try to save your children from this sinkhole.

    Reply this comment
  4. queeg
    queeg 18 April, 2012, 11:56

    Globalisation making public school uneducated a huge lower income health insurance…no home ownership….no training adaptation…..immobile….perfect Democrats!!!

    Reply this comment
  5. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 18 April, 2012, 12:20

    “Globalisation making public school uneducated a huge lower income health insurance…no home ownership….no training adaptation…..immobile….perfect Democrats!!!”

    Yeah, that’s about the way it is.

    Look how they’re saturating our neighborhoods with indigent illegals. Homes with 4 or 5 beaters parked outside their deteriorating homes. heh. You think they are a fortunate handful who evaded the border guards??? heh. BS. They were waved in and welcomed by the globalists who are making your laws in DC and Sactown. I am surprised that Sleazy Steinberg and Porky Perez don’t have satellite office down at San Ysidro and spend a couple nights a week shaking hands with the invaders as they crawl through the underground tunnels while simultaneously saying with a wink and a nod in spanish “Don’t forget to vote for me!”. heh. Plus, their aides would be standing next to them handing out flyers of how to apply for food stamps, get free medical care and basically beat the system.

    Reply this comment
  6. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 18 April, 2012, 12:32

    Welcome to the world of Twitter and titles to articles limited to 45 total characters!! And modern journalism means writing for a tenth grade educated audience because that is the reading level of our elected decision makers.

    If you want Ted Steals to be able to comment you need to drop the writing level down to 5th grade. 3rd if it involves any type of math 🙂

    Reply this comment
  7. ECK
    ECK 18 April, 2012, 19:33

    OK, Ted. I’m tired of “war on” stuff too. But what comments/ insight do you have on this issue? Anything?

    Reply this comment
  8. Mark
    Mark 18 April, 2012, 19:37

    Looking at the table of population stats, what demographic category is on the increase percentage-wise? None of the categories show an increase in the last ten years, yet population is up 10%. I am thinking some category must be growing quite a bit percentage-wise, but it is not represented in the table. My fear is that it is single parents with children, but I really don’t know. Anyone have the answer?

    Reply this comment
  9. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 18 April, 2012, 20:26

    Eck– I have a few ideas, why yes.

    Ever notice how the republican tea baggy right NEVER puts the word President in front of the name Obama?

    I wonder what Gov. Palin would do?

    There is no point re hashing the re hashed hash out here is there?

    Of course our 2 party system,(now with the tea baggers it’s hijacked to a party and a half) , will sadly never be able to do anything about the root causes of any of this.

    Wendall Berry noted one time that movements that do not address root causes are doomed to fail. He’s right.

    Here’s how I think it plays out:

    1. The economy will continue to get better albeit slowly.
    2. The President will be reelected in a squeeker.
    3. The republican party will suffer until moderates again grow balls. (then they will rise again)
    4. Really good Republicans may arise.
    5. Over time, when we someday again get a working legislative branch, we will address the root causes–Immigration, tax reform, further financial reform, inequities of class, over spending of mostly frozen government, endless pointless war and nation building etc.

    I have no interest in the current media/am radio/faux news/cliched/dull-normal reactionary tripe/racist garbage that drives the great unwashed booger eating redneck cathect of alot of America.

    Reply this comment
  10. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 18 April, 2012, 23:04

    “Where did the crisp cogent Republican party of W.F. Buckley go?”

    It died even before he did. The Republicans are now nothing more than Dixiecrats with a modern haircut.

    Reply this comment
  11. Lauren Frances
    Lauren Frances 18 April, 2012, 23:31

    Commies go home !

    Reply this comment
  12. Lauren Frances
    Lauren Frances 18 April, 2012, 23:37

    cancel – thanks –

    Reply this comment
  13. nowsane
    nowsane 19 April, 2012, 11:50

    Writing in City Journal, Robert Bryce’s “Get Dense-It’s time to stop wasting land and resources in the name of environmentalism”–Winter 2012
    quoted Witold Rybczynski, architect and author, who wrote in a 2009 essay for the Atlantic that “being truly green means returning to the kinds of dense cities and garden suburbs Americans built in the first half of the 20th century.” Most of the rest of Mr. Bryce’s article deals with using the most dense form of energy possible, mainly nuclear and oil/natural gas, versus this ludicrous plan for solar and wind power for electricity, and biofuels for cars and trucks that CA and Pres. Obama prefer.It is a must-read!

    Reply this comment
  14. queeg
    queeg 19 April, 2012, 14:17

    I think this site has some suspcious populists that may be on the pink side…any thoughts?

    Reply this comment
  15. Craig
    Craig 19 April, 2012, 21:27

    Public education goes out of it’s way to not teach all realms of money and banking and the test results are in from coast to coast. The middle class has no savings, there worthless IRA’s and 401K’s are screwed and even if a fraction of them earned a million dollars they could only get one percent give or take on safe interest. I’m including college grads in this rant also. For Agenda 21 if any of you can find some Russians who immigrated here they will tell you very quickly what is in store for the popular culture worshiping comatose amerikahn’s.

    Reply this comment
  16. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 19 April, 2012, 21:48

    …me a commie? LOL

    I have killed more communists than you will ever meet.

    Reply this comment
  17. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 19 April, 2012, 22:54

    “I have killed more communists than you will ever meet”

    Killed them with what? Kindness? What did you do? Bookmark their manifestos for them or translate chapters into english?

    Reply this comment
  18. queeg
    queeg 20 April, 2012, 08:10

    Red Hunting is not PC!!!

    They seek protected status….

    Reply this comment
  19. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 20 April, 2012, 21:08

    I served my Country in a time of war knucklehead……I was rarely kind.

    to quote the Midrash…a society that is kind when it should be cruel will be cruel when it should be kind.

    I just love these boards where clowns, well you know who you are, throw the communist charge around…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Reply this comment
  20. queeg
    queeg 21 April, 2012, 21:56

    Chased my share of commies….to no avail…they have followed me…..

    Reply this comment
  21. Anneliese
    Anneliese 24 April, 2012, 08:18

    How about we impose a population reduction instead of multi-plex housing?

    Also, I don’t believe that this is the sole reason for pursuit of changing the zoning: “The reason behind such a shift in housing policy is the decline in the proportion of intact, self-sufficient families to support the elderly.”

    I believe that developers realize the profitability of building mixed-use space: retail, office, housing, plus a garage that charges day fees as well as monthly leases, therefore THAT is the compelling argument to ask for rezoning.


    Reply this comment

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