Local Libertarians offer policy solutions
in ‘Opportunity Now’ feature interviews
Libertarian Party leaders from Santa Clara County are being tapped this fall for a series of articles on Libertarian solutions to public policy challenges. Opportunity Now Silicon Valley is a nonpartisan educational nonprofit aimed at policymakers; their mission includes “exploring how free-market ideas could be applied to Silicon Valley government challenges.”
The publication featured elected Libertarian Brian Holtz, serving his third term as a director of Purissima Hills Water District (Los Altos Hills), for this Oct. 14 article exploring how city leaders could slash local housing costs.
Libertarian Brian Holtz makes his case against land use restrictions
Brian Holtz — the Santa Clara County Libertarian Party Campaigns Committee chair — contends that citywide constraints on land use spike up housing prices, manufacture unnecessary scarcity, and invite discriminatory practices. Unpacking his Libertarian mindset towards governance, Holtz advocates for an end to onerous ordinances in areas like parking and lot minimums. An Opp Now exclusive.
Opportunity Now: Let’s talk about the local housing crisis. What’s driving prices up across the Bay Area?
Brian Holtz: In terms of city level, the most measurable and objective impact on housing and housing costs comes from land use restrictions. These restrictions limit the housing supply and keep the local market out of equilibrium. Lots of people want to buy housing, but sellers are restricted from building up and expanding in so many ways. And this impacts just about everybody.
For instance, incumbents’ property value goes up through scarcity. These residents are often progressive people who are pro-equality, pro-opportunity, pro-minority, yet the people being hurt by land use restrictions are lower-income, working, minority people.
There’s a really bad legacy of government restrictions being dressed-up support for housing discrimination. Who knows if that motivation is still there, but such laws still allow discrimination to occur.
ON: If you could get rid of one local government action and thereby cultivate a more thriving housing market, what would you axe?
BH: Easily, I’d get rid of land use restrictions. Even the subtle ordinances like parking and lot minimums eat up demand for land, decrease density, and make mass transit less economically feasible. The local government should just allow market equilibrium to give us more housing density.
ON: Ultimately, it sounds like you’re advocating for less government control of how individuals build on and use their own land. Is that fair?
BH: Definitely. Overall, Libertarians are upset about a lot of things the government does. We want individuals to enjoy “all of your freedoms all of the time.” We believe that each person has different utility functions and values. We want small governments because people care about different things.
Getting rid of land use restrictions is one crucial way to uphold these ideals.
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