CA Gov.'s affordable housing proposal sparks controversy

Dive Brief:

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative to exempt some affordable housing projects from local permitting and regulatory requirements has drawn the ire of trade unions and environmentalists, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
  • A joint letter to state legislators from unions and environmental groups warned that such a law would allow developers to dodge local environmental controls and possibly become a pathway for the demolition of existing affordable housing in favor of luxury developments with a token affordable component.
  • Administration officials said some changes could be made as they "refined" the proposed bill, but that changes to the existing laws were needed to address both the state’s supply of affordable and general housing stock.

Dive Insight:

For the governor's plan to have the intended effect on housing supply, cities will have to zone more land for high-density projects, and some municipalities might not be on board with those kinds of developments, according to The Los Angeles Times. In fact, Andrew Whittemore, assistant professor in city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina, told The Times that because land zoned for 100 units or more gets an almost unfettered pass to build a project with affordable housing, passage of Brown's law could spur cities to "downzone" certain parcels to prevent such projects altogether.

The one caveat that could keep that from happening, however, is that under California law, cities are obligated to maintain a certain level of available land for enough housing to meet its current population's income levels.

A recent National Low Income Housing Coalition report found that despite the efforts of the federal government, 10 million low-income U.S. families are in need of housing. While the country struggles with enough affordable housing to go around, California in particular has an extraordinarily short supply, most likely part of the state's overall housing supply problem, which has driven home prices and rents sky high.

The state's housing situation is so grim that a San Francisco Bay Area Council survey found that more than one-third of the area's residents plan to out-migrate because of housing costs, commute times and the rising cost of living in general, although housing was at the top of the list. In addition, an earlier Beacon Economics study determined that the state lost a net 625,000 residents between 2007 and 2014, largely because housing was just too expensive. 

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Filed Under: Residential Building Legal/Regulation
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