Renters are most af­fected by state’s hous­ing cri­sis

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Insight - BY DAN SCHNUR Spe­cial to The Sacra­mento Bee

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.

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The bru­tal com­bi­na­tion of a wide­spread hous­ing short­age, sky­rock­et­ing rents, in­creased in­come in­equal­ity and rapidly spread­ing home­less­ness has cre­ated a cri­sis that touches the lives of ev­ery Cal­i­for­nian, but most harshly im­pacts the state’s most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents.

“Ten­ant pro­tec­tions are es­sen­tial in a state with poverty rates above the na­tional av­er­age, three hour com­mutes and teach­ers sleep­ing in their cars,” said Bay Area po­lit­i­cal consultant Cather­ine Lew. “But there are mil­lions of Cal­i­for­ni­ans we can’t pro­tect from un­fair evic­tions and mas­sive rent hikes with­out mean­ing­ful, in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized re­form.”

The Sacra­mento Bee’s Cal­i­for­nia in­flu­encers are al­most unan­i­mous in agree­ing that the state must be much more ag­gres­sive to es­tab­lish some de­gree of san­ity and sta­bil­ity in the rental mar­ket here. But the range of their pro­posed so­lu­tions varies widely.

“Long term, dra­mat­i­cally adding to our hous­ing sup­ply is es­sen­tial to driv­ing down hous­ing cost in­creases,” said As­sem­bly­man Richard Bloom (DSanta Mon­ica). “But in­creas­ing sup­ply in the fu­ture is of lit­tle con­se­quence to a ten­ant fac­ing an un­af­ford­able rent in­crease to­day.”

Bloom was one of sev­eral In­flu­encers who ap­plauded Gov. Gavin New­som for his push for leg­is­la­tion that will cap rent in­creases and make it more dif­fi­cult for land­lords to evict tenants.

“Preda­tory land­lords need ac­count­abil­ity,” said Lisa Her­shey, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Hous­ing Cal­i­for­nia. “Cal­i­for­nia’s 17.5 mil­lion renters de­serve re­lief from land­lords hik­ing rent by as much as 100 (per­cent), pro­tec­tion from evic­tion with­out ‘just cause,’ and a right to coun­sel when an evic­tion no­tice ar­rives.”

Other In­flu­encers ar­gued that elim­i­nat­ing bar­ri­ers to hous­ing con­struc­tion would be a more

ef­fec­tive way to in­crease sup­ply and bring down costs for renters and home­own­ers

“False oner­ous mar­ket con­trols, like rent con­trol or rent caps, are merely band aids to a com­plex mar­ket de­fi­ciency cre­ated by both state and lo­cal anti-growth ad­vo­cates, who ad­vance poli­cies to dis­cour­age new de­vel­op­ment,” said Jen­nifer Svec of the Cal­i­for­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors. “We must ad­dress the hous­ing short­age with poli­cies that will ac­tu­ally lead to more hous­ing and not by en­act­ing more po­lices that sim­ply serve to mask the prob­lem.”

State Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfiel­d) of­fered spe­cific pro­pos­als to in­crease hous­ing sup­ply.

“High rents are caused by high de­mand for a scarce sup­ply of apart­ments. The so­lu­tion is more apart­ments, which re­duces rents,” Grove said. “Cal­i­for­nia needs to re­move bur­den­some reg­u­la­tions and fees and make it eas­ier to build… It shouldn’t take up to $100,000 in per­mits and fees be­fore builders put their first nail in a 2x4.”

An­other fre­quent point of em­pha­sis is the need for new de­vel­op­ment to in­clude set­ting aside more low-cost units for renters who can not af­ford mar­ket rates.

“We need more Cal­i­for­nia cities to be­come “pro-hous­ing” and build more hous­ing units with ev­ery seg­ment of their pop­u­la­tion in mind,” said Tia Boat­man Pat­ter­son, New­som’s chief hous­ing ad­viser. “Ap­prov­ing lux­ury mul­ti­fam­ily units in ar­eas where hous­ing is most needed puts lowand moder­ate-in­come renters in dan­ger of dis­place­ment.”

League of Cal­i­for­nia Cities Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Carolyn Cole­man urged New­som to sign leg­is­la­tion that would pro­vide ad­di­tional fund­ing to lo­cal gov­ern­ments for af­ford­able hous­ing con­struc­tion.

“As mar­ket forces spur new de­vel­op­ment or re­de­vel­op­ment of ex­ist­ing hous­ing stock with pre­sum­ably higher mar­ket val­ues or re­turns, our renters are feel­ing the pres­sure as rental costs in­crease,” Cole­man said. “One of the best ways to pro­tect our fam­i­lies is to in­crease the sup­ply of af­ford­able rental hous­ing as de­ter­mined by lo­cally driven and state ap­proved land use plans.”

An­other way of mak­ing hous­ing more af­ford­able is to put more money di­rectly into the hands of Cal­i­for­nia renters, said Howard Jarvis Tax­pay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Jon Coupal, who pro­posed in­creas­ing the state renters’ tax credit

“The cur­rent renters credit is a pal­try $60 ($120 for cou­ples)… with strict in­come lim­i­ta­tions,” Coupal said. “In­creas­ing both the cur­rent renters credit and home­own­ers exemption… would be ex­traor­di­nar­ily help­ful in not only al­le­vi­at­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s cur­rent hous­ing cri­sis, but also pro­vid­ing mid­dle-class tax re­lief in Amer­ica’s most heav­ily taxed state.”

Jim Boren, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Me­dia and Public Trust at Fresno State Uni­ver­sity, of­fered a re­minder that the ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion must in­clude both pro­tec­tion for tenants and cre­ate in­cen­tives for de­vel­op­ment.

“We need thought­ful renter pro­tec­tions that are sus­tain­able. How­ever, un­til we in­crease the stock of af­ford­able hous­ing units to meet the de­mand, the cost of rentals will con­tinue to rise and put vul­ner­a­ble renters on the street,” Boren said. “We must re­duce gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions that make build­ing hous­ing more costly, and we must re­vise laws that pre­vent us from putting rea­son­able caps on rent in­creases.”

AN­DREW BUR­TON NYT

Three homes sit on a sin­gle lot in Berke­ley as Cal­i­for­nia cities strug­gle to keep up with hous­ing de­mand.

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