California Sen. Scott Weiner (D–San Francisco), the country’s top YIMBY (“Yes in my backyard”) legislator handily won re-election against a democratic socialist challenger who ran against Weiner’s friendliness to new private housing development.
As of Wednesday morning, Weiner had managed to capture 59 percent of the vote in his reelection bid, according to the city’s Department of Elections. Opponent Jackie Fielder, an instructor at San Francisco State University and socialist activist, captured a little over 40 percent of the vote in the two-person race.
“Wow. Thank you for re-electing me with ~60% of the vote. I’m so honored to continue representing you in the Senate,” tweeted Weiner the night of the vote. “Nearly $1.5M was spent by or on behalf of my opponent & we prevailed.”
Wiener is hardly a libertarian. He has, however, been a fierce advocate for repealing the miles of red tape and regulation that have produced California’s housing shortage and the sky-high rents and housing prices that come with it.
He’s sponsored a number of bills that make it easier for people to build new housing, and harder for local governments to reject it. Wiener’s signature, but ultimately unsuccessful reform this year was S.B. 50, which would have legalized the development of fourplexs statewide, and allowed midrise apartments near job centers and transit stops.
That free market-friendly, if not radically Rothbardian, vision is in stark contrast to Fielder’s own much more left-wing housing platform. Her “California Homes For All” plan included proposals for a $100 billion fund to buy or build new, price-controlled housing units, and a repeal of state laws that limit rent control and allow landlords to evict tenants from a unit if they’re taking it off the rental market.
“Our state’s housing affordability crisis cannot be remedied by relying on real estate developers and the private market alone,” wrote Fielder on her campaign website. “The market-based approach spearheaded by our current State Senator will not solve the crisis and, in our own Senate District, it will only accelerate income inequality, displacement and high housing costs.”
Fielder has opposed S.B. 50 on the grounds that new market-rate housing will only spur gentrification and displacement, and she’s criticized another of Wiener’s bills, S.B. 35, for streamlining the permitting process too much in a state where approvals of new housing can take years.
To her credit, Fielder has endorsed repealing zoning restrictions in Cupertino, Beverly Hills, and other wealthy communities that are not in her backyard on the grounds that this would prevent wealthier renters from moving into poorer communities.
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) were big boosters of Fielder’s campaign, endorsing her back in January, and actively promoting her candidacy on social media with tweets that labeled Wiener “anti-homeless” and a stooge of luxury real estate developers.
Wiener’s resounding win in an election that pitted two very different visions against each other is a vindication of the deregulatory YIMBY approach to housing affordability.
Coupled with the crushing defeat of the statewide initiative Prop. 21, which would have allowed local governments to expand rent control, it was a good night for free market housing policy.