Op-ed: Ben Gould is the right pick to help tackle housing crisis in our community

Ben Gould, who is running for City Council representing District 4, will make sure that Berkeley sets itself on a course to becoming a truly inclusive community.

As a freshman at Berkeley High School, I am really concerned about the housing prices in Berkeley. No, I am not looking for a place but, nonetheless, I do witness the effects of this crisis as the nurses at local clinics, the firefighters in BFD, and my teachers at BHS cannot afford to live in Berkeley.

Michigan Superintendent Brian J. Whiston recently said that he wished that all full-time public-school teachers could be paid in six figures, but that it is not feasible under current economic conditions. I don’t know whether it is feasible or not, but I do know that it is completely possible to enable our teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other valuable community members to live where they work: here, in Berkeley.

Everyone on City Council agrees that there is an affordable housing crisis in Berkeley. However, they disagree on how to address it. One leading position is to push for dramatic increases in development of new housing so that supply in housing markets increase to meet current demands. To aid this cause, the city would have to speed up the process of approving new construction. Other politicians in Berkeley present a different approach. These politicians believe in the need for “community-, not developer-driven, development.”

However, unfortunately this seemingly progressive concept of community-driven development would, in practice, mean no development at all. This is because the “community” includes a lot of homeowners for whom new construction would not be favorable. Furthermore, the middle-income people who work in Berkeley but are forced to live elsewhere are not considered part of the “community.” The other leading group that would support more affordable housing in Berkeley would be UC Berkeley students. However, many of these students are not registered to vote in Berkeley.

Supporters of “community-, not developer-driven, development” often claim that deregulation, or even preventing further regulation, of new construction might adversely impact the environment. This is why we need knowledgeable people like Ben Gould  — who is running for City Council representing District 4 — involved in the processes of regulation and deregulation.

Gould has done research at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory about the ways in which certain human actions influence air quality. He is also completing a dual graduate degree at UC Berkeley in Environmental Engineering and Public Policy. Gould is very passionate about applying the solutions to our environmental problems to policies, and he has shown this with his work when he chaired the Community Environmental Advisory Commission.

Gould asserts that many of the regulations deliver no benefit to environmental sustainability. According to Gould, these regulations do nothing more than hinder new construction, making them effectively anti-housing regulations rather than pro-sustainability. Moreover, housing is necessary for a sustainable community. Therefore, these anti-housing regulations are also anti-sustainability. Gould will make sure that there are “strong green standards for new buildings” without letting green-washed anti-housing policies fly.

Another argument for community-driven development is that it is the only way to ensure that development happens in such a way that these displaced middle-income workers can afford them. The truth is, if city councilmembers remain committed to the cause of affordable housing, then they will not let development that does not benefit these people fly. This is exactly what Ben Gould will do in City Council, and this is precisely what he has done while serving on the Housing Advisory Commission.

Gould will “fight to make sure that all new housing is contributing to greater affordability.” And, knowing that there can be no meaningful compromise when it comes to social justice, Gould pledges to “build high-quality housing for people at all income levels.”

Ben Gould will make sure that Berkeley sets itself on a course to becoming a truly inclusive community. As Berkeley resident and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas recently put it in the Berkeleyside comments: “More housing to meet demand, thus slowing or reversing the increase in housing prices?… Finally someone who understands basic economics….Vote for Gould! Seems like a no-brainer.”

Teo Tezcan is a student at Berkeley High School. He is volunteering for Ben Gould's campaign.