According to the latest statistics, the population in Southern California grows by the equivalent of a city the size of Pasadena, Orange, or Victorville each year. This massive increase in population is putting a strain on housing as the pace of new single and multi-family housing construction has not been able to keep up. In fact, this population explosion is responsible for creating some of the highest home prices and rents in the country.
To anyone in the housing industry, the solution is quite obvious, we need to build more housing, something that home builders have been saying needs to be done for many years. However, in order for this to happen, the state of California must make some serious changes to its cumbersome and seemingly endless list of regulations.
Finally, homebuilders are no longer the only ones trying to accomplish this. The list of advocates now includes a suite of affordable housing advocates, legislative analysts, a popular San Francisco think tank, a number of respected economists, and recently (and perhaps most importantly of all) California Governor, Jerry Brown.
Fast-tracking the Solution
This May, the governor unveiled a plan that included a way to speed up construction of new condos and apartments as long as any development plans also included homes for families in lower incomes with fixed rents and purchase prices. This concept is based on the fact that Southern California and in particular Los Angeles/Orange Counties is consistently at the top of the list of U.S. housing markets that strain most household budgets.
“We’re just not getting enough supply to the marketplace,” said Ben Metcalf, Brown’s appointee to head the state Housing and Community Development Department. “What the governor basically said is it’s bad enough, the state needs to take affirmative action.”
Not Everyone Agrees
While this plan might seem like the best option for taking care of the growing housing shortage in the area, not everyone agrees with it. Many neighborhood activists, environmentalists, and cities feel that the governor’s plans will rob them of their voices when it comes to a number of issues. Among these are how the changes will impact traffic, housing and property values, and the amount of new traffic in their areas.
“It sidesteps environmental review,” said Dan Carrigg, legislative affairs deputy director for the League of California Cities. “If an adjoining property owner has an issue (with a development), there’s no forum.” To put this in simple terms, if this proposal goes through, homeowners are afraid they will have no say in any new housing developments in their neighborhoods and no one to listen to their concerns.
“By Right” Approval
In essence, Governor Brown says the new program will encourage builders to construct new housing by giving them “by right” approval. They will gain this as long as they agree to work within current land use guidelines and to set aside 20 percent of the homes they build as affordable housing. Despite huge amounts of controversy, the proposal will be on the November ballot, giving voters the right to make the decision. While the proposal is not without its problems, it does appear to be a viable option for the continuing housing shortage that is only expected to get worse if something isn’t done soon.