Monday, April 9, 2007

Closing the barn door on condo conversions …

  One criticism of governmental responses to social problems –- a criticism made by both the left and the right –- is that government is often too slow to act.  In fact, once government does create new rules, the perceived problem may have already been resolved, or the proverbial horse may already have left the barn.

San_diego_3   An example is playing out in San Diego, where the city government has tentatively approved a plan to limit conversions of apartments to condos by restricting to 1000 per year the number of conversions the city would approve.  The plan has been created in response to litigation by opponents of such conversions, who have argued in court that the city has been approving condo conversions without going through all the legally required steps, including an assessment of environmental impacts.

   It may well be that the settlement is justified in order to ensure that the city government is following the law.  But as a governmental response to the perceived problem of condo conversions exacerbating the “affordable housing” problem in San Diego, one of the nation’s most expensive cities in which to find housing, it comes very late.  Had restrictions been in place in 1998, they would have done much more to keep in place some rental housing that otherwise “went condo.”  Today, the housing market has cooled, condo conversion plans are being shelved by market forces, and the city is now responding by closing the proverbial barn door …

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