Everyone’s policy gaming the Wuhan Virus and its impact on politics. Including the great big war on single family housing and the push for urban density and superdense living. Proponents in California are worried that an outbreak isn’t a good look for density.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic leaders have championed urban housing as a way to address the ever-rising cost of living in California. They prefer that approach over continuing the state’s legacy of expanding freeways and suburbs that take advantage of California’s vast geography — which has led to emissions pollution and neighborhoods in wildfire zones.
The Democrats’ argument had been gaining traction, especially among younger residents desperate for cheaper housing and less inured to car ownership. It was also a weapon in Newsom’s fight against homelessness, a sore subject that for months incurred the wrath of President Donald Trump.
Density has nothing to do with homelessness. It does have plenty to do with the spread of the Wuhan Virus.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo conceded as much this week when explaining why the virus has been found in 15 times as many New Yorkers as Californians so far.
“We have one of the most dense, close environments in the country,” he said Wednesday. “And that’s why the virus communicated the way it did. Our closeness makes us vulnerable.”
You can’t social distance on mass transit. And when urban density is tight, that affects available space for walking down the streets or a supermarket.
For two years, battle lines have been drawn over bills by Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat. His proposals would have forced local governments to allow more housing near transit stations and office buildings, but they died under intense opposition.
“Of course people will abuse the coronavirus pandemic for other political goals,” Wiener said. “Some of the anti-housing activists, there’s an undertone that it’s somehow unhealthy to live in a dense urban environment. I’m confident they’ll latch onto this.”
Is it unhealthy?
I’m a New Yorker. There are obvious pluses and minuses. You are going to have worse air quality (no matter what bans you implement) and you are going to have more asthma, and assorted breathing problems, which overlap as risk factors for the Wuhan Virus.
“This contagion is not about whether you live in a densely populated area or a less densely populated area; it’s about whether you have a good public health response to a pandemic, and Hong Kong and Singapore had a fantastic response,” Wiener said. “The U.S. did not. It’s not because of density or lack of density, it’s because they did a good job and we did a bad job.”
Singapore and Hong Kong are dictatorships. They’re also quite different culturally. That means that they can do things we can’t.
When the Democrats decide that we should have a Chinese Communist puppet regime or an oligarchy that punishes its subjects ruthlessly for quality-of-life offenses, then Wiener might have a little bit more of a point.
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