Siz­zling Cal­i­for­nia econ­omy spawns a se­vere hous­ing cri­sis

The Buffalo News - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Adam Nagourney and Conor Dougherty

SACRA­MENTO, Calif. – A fullfledged hous­ing cri­sis has gripped Cal­i­for­nia, marked by a se­vere lack of af­ford­able homes and apart­ments for mid­dle-class fam­i­lies. The me­dian cost of a home here is now a stag­ger­ing $500,000, twice the na­tional cost. Home­less­ness is surg­ing across the state.

In Los An­ge­les, boom­ing with con­struc­tion and signs of pros­per­ity, some peo­ple have given up on find­ing a place and have moved into vans with makeshift kitchens, hid­den away in quiet neigh­bor­hoods. In Sil­i­con Val­ley – an in­ter­na­tional sym­bol of wealth and tech­nol­ogy – lines of parked recre­ational ve­hi­cles are a daily tes­ti­mony to the chal­lenges of find­ing an af­ford­able place to call home.

Heather Lile, a nurse who makes $180,000 a year, com­mutes two hours from her home in Man­teca to the San Fran­cisco hospi­tal where she works, 80 miles away. “I make re­ally good money and it’s frus­trat­ing to me that I can’t af­ford to live close to my job,” Lile said. is up and un­em­ploy­ment is down. But the churn­ing econ­omy has run up against 30 years of re­sis­tance to the kind of de­vel­op­ment ex­perts say is ur­gently needed. Cal­i­for­nia has al­ways been a de­sir­able place to live and over the decades has gone through pe­ri­odic spasms of high hous­ing costs, but of­fi­cials say the com­bi­na­tion of a boom­ing econ­omy and the lack of con­struc­tion of homes and apart­ments have com­bined to make this the worst hous­ing cri­sis here in mem­ory.

Hous­ing prices in Los An­ge­les, San Fran­cisco, San Jose and San Diego have jumped as much as 75 per­cent over the past five years.

The bill spon­sored by Wiener, one of 130 hous­ing mea­sures that have been in­tro­duced this year, would re­strict one of the big­gest de­vel­op­ment tools that com­mu­ni­ties wield: the abil­ity to use zon­ing, en­vi­ron­men­tal and pro­ce­dural laws to thwart projects they deem out of char­ac­ter with their neigh­bor­hood.

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