Governments are doing a poor job of keeping up with technology-driven change -- and nowhere moreso than in the San Francisco Bay Area, says Y Combinator president Sam Altman.
During a fireside chat at the Disrupt SF conference Wednesday, Altman told TechCrunch reporter Kim-Mai Cutler one of two things will have to happen to ease the Bay Area's severe housing crunch: Either the situation gets so bad people just leave, or municipal governments get serious about building more housing.
Cutler suggested there was a diverging rate of speed where the tech industry was creating jobs faster than the area could keep up with housing. “To some extent that will always be an inherent problem but it’s like it’s widening,” she said.
Altman said that was giving San Francisco “a little bit too much of a pass.” It takes a long time to build housing, he acknowledged, “but not the years and decades it is taking.”
He said one problem is that homeowners are happy to watch the rising values of their property, and since higher income homeowners are voting more than people in lower income brackets who are renting, “we have this continual ‘Let’s not build as many units in San Francisco’ ” mentality.
Angel investor Ron Conway also talked about the housing crisis in San Francisco during a fireside chat at Disrupt Monday. The so-called “Godfather of Silicon Valley” called the tech industry a driving force in the issue.
The city “has a huge housing problem and the tech industry has a lot to do with the housing issue,” Conway said.
Altman expanded on his point about the role of municipal government in the housing crisis to talk about other areas where he feels government isn’t making enough moves to adapt to economic development and changes that accompany the growth of the tech industry.
While tech increases wealth, it also concentrates it, he said. Altman has previously raised the question of whether “basic income,” or money the government simply distributes to adults, may be a solution to the decrease in available work for humans that he foresees.
“I think there’s going to be massive job destruction in the next 10 or 20 years,” Altman said during the fireside chat.
“I think we just need to get over this old school American ideal that hard work is valuable for its own sake.”
Altman called incompetence of the government the greatest threat to the country, and said he feared the government would not “get its act together in time” to adapt to the wave of economic changes that are accompanying technological innovation.
“I think that technology is such a part of our future and it’s changing things so much, that I think that if the government continues to be sort of relatively incompetent toward supporting technology and addressing the changes on the rest of society that technology causes – yeah, I think that someone from the tech world will run (for president),” he said.