California Influencers this week answered the question: What do you think are the most important steps to take to improve California’s shortage of affordable housing? Would Proposition 10 help or hurt in those efforts? Here are their answers:
Donna Lucas, CEO and president, Lucas Public Affairs
California housing prices are the highest in the nation. Rental costs have exploded. The Public Policy Institute of California reports that 61 percent of California renters say rent is a major financial drain on them and their families. This is a human as well as an economic crisis, and it has huge implications. People are moving to states where they can afford to live. This drain on human capital is a terrible loss to California. To make housing more affordable to all Californians, there is no getting around the need to build more of it. At bottom, the housing shortage is what’s causing the crisis. To ease the short supply, we have to remove barriers to construction. This includes CEQA reform. We need to create incentives to build more smart, mixed-use, energy-efficient housing. Building homes for a growing population will have the effect we all want. Increasing supply will start meeting demand; it will make housing more affordable. Local and state leaders should convene a summit and develop a joint plan to accomplish this. Prop 10 won’t help. It does not address the real problem. We need a better, more comprehensive approach.
Housing shortages and rising housing costs have been a result of misaligned incentives, uncoordinated economic development, a lackluster capital market for housing and complicated regulations for new development. To increase supply, four steps should be taken — declare homelessness a state of emergency in our hardest hit areas, create a statewide Housing specialist to partner with local/regional areas to establish housing supply plans, utilize state bonds and federal resources to ensure low income and middle income options for housing, and consider changing all misaligned incentives (including Prop 13) to ensure a sustainable housing stock for the next generation.
Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO, California Chamber of Commerce
CalChamber opposes Proposition 10 because it will exacerbate California’s housing crisis. As far as dealing with California’s shortage of affordable housing, the Legislature needs to consider every possible avenue to increase supply most importantly by developing strategies that will stimulate private construction of new homes. As such, the Legislature would be wise to provide leadership on CEQA reform, lowering property taxes and reviving some version of California’s redevelopment agencies.
Les Simmons, pastor, South Sacramento Christian Center
There is no silver bullet to end the housing crisis, but we make a significant impact by streamlining building regulations, provide incentives for building affordable housing and yes, voting for Prop 10. Cities need the ability to ensure their residents have continued affordable options. We need to encourage development to fit the needs of the communities.
Steve Westly, former California State Controller; founder, Westly Group
Modify CEQA. More carrots and sticks to pressure cities to zone more infill housing.
Christine Robertson, vice president of community engagement and advocacy, Visit San Luis Obispo
Our organization recently surveyed more than 5,000 residents of San Luis Obispo County about their priorities for the future of our region. Unsurprisingly, our residents told us the things they value most are our county’s beauty, open space and scenic views, and the thing they most want fixed is the lack of affordable housing. These competing values – don’t grow but add housing supply– are at the heart of many California communities struggling to balance environmental, social and economic impacts.
The shortage of housing available to low-to-middle income Californians is a symptom of a much more complicated system problem. Policies to incentivize more inclusionary housing, build more multi-family units and reform CEQA are all steps in the right direction and should be swiftly implemented. But they are not themselves sufficient. In a resource constrained and environmentally conscience state, we cannot simply build our way to supply-demand equilibrium. With housing prices outpacing wage growth by nearly 60 percent over the past 30 years, it is clear that we must also prioritize economic growth and mobility to help close the affordability gap. To achieve anything close to a sustainable solution, policymakers must resist the temptation to legislate in issue silos and work to bring the whole system into healthy balance.
Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator, 1993-2017
Affordable housing is clearly lacking in many parts of California. I have seen fact checked stories of working people who are forced to live in their cars and multiple families forced to share cramped quarters. At some point we will begin losing major employers because their workers cannot find suitable housing. So this issue is not only one of compassion but one of economics. The middle class, like our teachers and the retail sales force,are hurting when it comes to housing.
We all know there is not one silver bullet to solve this problem but there are steps to be taken.
I remember the days when I was a county supervisor and every development had to have a certain number of affordable units as part of the approval process.
We also need to support major tax credits to incentivize affordable units ok’d in undeveloped areas close to transportation. That is called”in-fill”. If shopping malls begin to fade, they would be prime sites for such housing.
Another idea is to encourage pension plans to invest in affordable housing for their employees. It’s a good investment!
In terms of rent control, I agree with Lieutenant Governor Newsom when he points out there are ways to tweak current law so that we don’t drive away new housing construction. As current law is tweaked it should allow for the views of local government to be respected.
When I was growing up there was an expression: “A man’s home is his castle.” Ignoring the gender bias in this, it is true that with a roof over their heads that is safe and secure, our families certainly will have the foundation they need to thrive.
Harmeet Dhillon, member, Republican National Committee; partner, Dhillon Law Group
California desperately needs to roll back regulations that prevent the economical building of new housing. These regulations range from excessive taxation to environmental and land use regulations to mandates such as solar power to rent control — everywhere you look, excessive regulation makes it more difficult for builders to build, owners to stay in their homes, and renters to fulfill the dream of home ownership. This syndrome is causing taxpaying younger people to flee California, retirees to spend their final years elsewhere, and people with a future to decide not to come to California to build it, leading to a tax and a brain drain from our state. The housing shortage exacerbates the divide between rich and poor in our state, as the middle class is forced to seek their futures in friendlier states. The California Legislature can fix this, but only if it frees itself from the grip of special interests who mandate these ruinous regulations.
Chad Peace, founder and president, IVC Media; founding board member, National Association of Non-Partisan Reformers
First, we should eliminate burdensome and redundant regulations that discourage responsible development, especially for smaller homes and projects. Second, we should adjust zoning criteria to increase densities near and along urban transit corridors. The best way to reduce housing prices is to increase supply. Rent control, however, disincentives development. This makes it harder for supply to keep up with demand. That why I believe, where rent control has been used, it tends to result in more social inequity and done little to discipline housing prices.