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Silicon Valley's profound housing crisis, in one sentence

All communities sometimes mobilize in opposition to some kind of new project, but this Eliot Brown account of what happened when someone proposed building some offices near a new football stadium in Santa Clara, California, is a mind-boggling:

San Jose has taken the rare step of publicly opposing the project, saying it would add far too many jobs, exacerbating the region’s housing shortage.

The really strange thing is that the city's officials aren't being irrational. The Silicon Valley region has added about 385,000 new jobs over the past five years and approved a bit fewer than 60,000 housing units. That means it really is in an upside-down economic universe where creating new jobs can be construed as bad for many existing residents of the area.

But, of course, there really is something bizarre about a region turning down the opportunity for job creation.

And even more to the point, there's something deeply dysfunctional about the fact that the United States of America can't seem to build enough houses in its most economically vibrant region. After all, it's not as if more houses can't fit in Silicon Valley.

The city of San Francisco is less dense than Brooklyn. Santa Clara County, where this project is being debated, is significantly less dense than the Long Island suburbs. Accommodating the people that the region needs to fuel its economy would not require an endless procession of high-rise buildings.

You'd want to have some, sure, though townhouses and rowhouses and three-deckers and other "missing middle" low-rise housing forms could carry much of the weight. But trying to cram several of the world's largest companies plus a thriving startup ecosystem into a series of low-slung suburbs and office parks doesn't work at all.

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