Thomas Sowell‘s latest column at Human Events probes the government’s continued interest in “affordable” housing.

Nowhere has there been so much hand-wringing over a lack of “affordable housing,” as among politicians and others in coastal California. And nobody has done more to make housing unaffordable than those same politicians and their supporters.

A recent survey showed that the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was just over $3,500. Some people are paying $1,800 a month just to rent a bunk bed in a San Francisco apartment. …

… Is the solution to unaffordable housing prices in parts of California simple? Yes. It is as simple as supply and demand. What gets complicated is evading the obvious, because it is politically painful.

One of the first things taught in an introductory economics course is supply and demand. When a growing population creates a growing demand for housing, and the government blocks housing from being built, the price of existing housing goes up.

This is not a breakthrough on the frontiers of knowledge. Economists have understood supply and demand for centuries — and so have many other people who never studied economics.

Housing prices in San Francisco, and in many other communities for miles around, were once no higher than in the rest of the United States. But, beginning in the 1970s, housing prices in these communities skyrocketed to three or four times the national average.

Why? Because local government laws and policies severely restricted, or banned outright, the building of anything on vast areas of land. This is called preserving “open space,” and “open space” has become almost a cult obsession among self-righteous environmental activists, many of whom are sufficiently affluent that they don’t have to worry about housing prices.