HOUS­ING CRI­SIS IN FO­CUS

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY DAN SCH­NUR

In­flu­encers weigh in on Cal­i­for­nia’s af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis, which has reached epic pro­por­tions.

Note to read­ers: Each week through Novem­ber 2019, a se­lec­tion of our 101 Cal­i­for­nia In­flu­encers an­swers a ques­tion that is crit­i­cal to Cal­i­for­nia’s fu­ture. Top­ics in­clude ed­u­ca­tion, health care, en­vi­ron­ment, hous­ing and eco­nomic growth.

Cal­i­for­nia’s hous­ing cri­sis has reached epic pro­por­tions.

The state’s me­dian home value has in­creased al­most 80 per­cent in just the last eight years, and is now more than half a mil­lion dol­lars. Fewer than one-third of Cal­i­for­ni­ans can now af­ford a me­dian-priced home, while a ma­jor­ity of ren­ters spend more than 30 per­cent of their in­come on hous­ing. The hous­ing short­age means that more than half a mil­lion Cal­i­for­nia work­ers now have one-way com­mutes of more than 90 min­utes.

Gov. Gavin New­som has called for an un­prece­dented in­crease in the amount of hous­ing con­struc­tion, promis­ing to build half a mil­lion houses ev­ery year for the next seven years. New­som’s se­nior hous­ing ad­viser, Tia Boat­man Patterson, is one of The Sacra­mento Bee’s Cal­i­for­nia In­flu­encers. She out­lined “a multi-pronged ap­proach” to achieve that am­bi­tious goal.

The gover­nor’s plan most no­tably in­cen­tivizes lo­cal gov­ern­ments with both re­wards and penal­ties to in­crease their hous­ing sup­ply. But it also pri­or­i­tizes a com­bi­na­tion of di­rect fi­nan­cial sub­si­dies, reg­u­la­tory re­lief and in­creased co­or­di­na­tion of hous­ing and trans­porta­tion pol­icy.

The sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween hous­ing and trans­porta­tion, and be­tween state and lo­cal govern­ment, are be­hind the most con­tro­ver­sial bill of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion, state Sen­a­tor Scott Wiener’s (D-San Fran­cisco) re­newed pro­posal to pro­mote more multi-fam­ily hous­ing near public trans­porta­tion and large job cen­ters.

“One of the most im­por­tant strate­gies is mak­ing it le­gal to build enough hous­ing,” said Wiener, who noted that lo­cal zon­ing re­stric­tions pro­hibit multi-unit build­ings in 80 per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia. “This re­stric­tion en­sures that hous­ing re­mains very ex­pen­sive and per­pet­u­ates our hous­ing short­age.”

“While lo­cal de­ci­sion­mak­ing around hous­ing is im­por­tant, the state (must) … en­sure that all com­mu­ni­ties al­low hous­ing. We need to move away from al­low­ing cities to opt out of build­ing hous­ing,” he added.

Wiener, also a mem­ber of the Bee’s Cal­i­for­nia In­flu­encer group, has re­tooled his bill, SB 50, and ex­panded its base of sup­port to in­clude la­bor, busi­ness and en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ter­ests.

“The lack of af­ford­able homes has forced thou­sands of Cal­i­for­ni­ans into long and gru­el­ing drives,” said Amanda Eaken, di­rec­tor of trans­porta­tion and cli­mate for the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil. “With SB 50, Cal­i­for­nia can demon­strate that meet­ing its hous­ing de­mand can be part of the cli­mate so­lu­tion.”

“We need to en­sure that when we make bil­lion dol­lar in­vest­ments in fixed-rail tran­sit sys­tems that we zone for ap­pro­pri­ate heights and den­si­ties for homes (and jobs) within a half-mile ra­dius of those tran­sit sta­tions,” said Carl Guardino, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Sil­i­con Val­ley Lead­er­ship Group. “And we need to sup­port lo­cal elected lead­ers will­ing to cast tough ‘yea’ votes by stand­ing with them at city and town coun­cil hear­ings across our state.”

Com­mu­nity re­sis­tance is one rea­son that Wiener’s bill is op­posed by the Cal­i­for­nia League of Cities. Carolyn Cole­man, the League’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, in­stead em­pha­sized the need to di­rectly com­mit ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial re­sources.

“In or­der to ad­dress the hous­ing sup­ply short­age and to pro­vide more af­ford­able hous­ing for Cal­i­for­nia’s work­ing class, the most im­por­tant step is to de­velop a long-term, ro­bust and on­go­ing source of fund­ing to in­vest in af­ford­able hous­ing and in­cen­tivize de­vel­op­ment,” said Cole­man.

Lisa Her­shey, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Hous­ing Cal­i­for­nia, also called for in­creased state spend­ing.

“We can­not trust the mar­ket to en­sure that the most vul­ner­a­ble among us have sta­ble hous­ing,” Her­shey said. “In­stead, we need (to) in­vest real dol­lars into cre­at­ing af­ford­able and per­ma­nent homes for those hurt­ing the most, pro­vide rental as­sis­tance to help fam­i­lies se­cure a home quickly and pro­tect ren­ters from los­ing their home and fall­ing into home­less­ness.

La­bor in­ter­ests also sup­port ad­di­tional fund­ing, as well as reg­u­la­tory re­lief, but with an im­por­tant caveat.

“The pri­mary cause of the af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis in Cal­i­for­nia is that work­ers’ pay­checks have not kept pace with hous­ing prices,” said Ce­sar Diaz, leg­isla­tive and po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor for the State Build­ing and Con­struc­tion Trades Coun­cil of Cal­i­for­nia. “Any public as­sis­tance for de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial or reg­u­la­tory in­cen­tives, should come with hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity and job qual­ity guar­an­tees.”

For­mer Ana­heim Mayor Curt Pringle stressed the ben­e­fits that in­creased co­op­er­a­tion be­tween state and lo­cal lead­ers would bring to both lev­els of govern­ment.

“Af­ford­able hous­ing is a ben­e­fit to cities, not a detri­ment, and lo­cal lead­ers need to de­velop and share that mes­sage to ed­u­cate their con­stituents about the ben­e­fits greater hous­ing stock brings to com­mu­ni­ties,” said Pringle, who was the last Repub­li­can to serve as State As­sem­bly Speaker. “Sacra­mento can as­sist in this – not by tak­ing over lo­cal land use de­ci­sion mak­ing, but through other in­cen­tives, like con­nect­ing af­ford­able hous­ing to in­creased trans­porta­tion and in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing that will sup­port the cost of the in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion.”

Fresno Bee file

Gov. Gavin New­som has called for an un­prece­dented in­crease in the amount of hous­ing con­struc­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, promis­ing to build half a mil­lion houses ev­ery year for the next seven years.

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