California Housing Policies to Combat Global Warming Limit Freedom


On Sunday, Wendell Cox, a former member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, claimed that California is waging a war on suburbia and its hallmark “single family, detached homes” in an effort to combat climate change. California and its municipalities are requiring new homes to be built in what it calls “transit villages.” These villages are packed with at least 20 residences in a single acre, which is about five times denser than California’s traditional allotment of land per residence of a quarter acre per house.

In requiring developers to pack new homes into these transit villages, California is causing housing prices to soar, making life for its residents increasingly unaffordable. Cox suggests that California's laws limiting where houses can be built are a major reason why 1.6 million people have left the state since 2000.

California claims transit villages will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by automobiles driven by commuters. If people are packed into transit villages which have access to public transit, they will be closer to city centers and commute less. In the process, however, California's policies are unnecessarily limiting freedoms for many Californians who now have little choice but to accept expensive, packed housing or else leave the state. In light of California’s problems stemming from such regulations on housing construction, a better way to combat climate change would be to let private individuals work out ways of reducing carbon emissions.

The good news is that there are avenues for curbing greenhouse emissions that do not require government coercion. For instance, Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business draws businesses and non-governmental organizations together to address climate change through conservation. Libertarian commentator John Stossel also notes that removing government regulations would allow more of our energy to come from nuclear power instead of fossil fuels like coal, giving entrepreneurs the ability to create new ways of reducing carbon emissions. These innovations could then be sold to people and organizations interested in combating global warming.

Such solutions work (or would work, if government let them) to combat global warming without forcing individuals to conform to policies that reduce their well-being, such as California's housing regulations.

The key is that the private sector allows for choice while government solutions take choice away. If a private sector solution ends up doing more harm than good, those involved can always abandon it tothink of better ways to fight global warming. People have no such option when government is dictating solutions; choice becomes a matter of conforming to government’s solution or facing penalties for breaking the government’s law.

People living in California have no choice but to conform to its government’s solution to climate change. The upside? 1.6 million former Californians since 2000 have shown they still have one choice — finding a different state in which to live. Hopefully, they have found states which let their people work out their own solutions to complex problems in the private sector and refrain from imposing regulations that limit their freedom.