2020 must be the year of housing supply in California.
As California enters a new decade, government leaders continue to grapple with a crisis that threatens our state’s future like no other. The lack of housing supply is real. Our state’s working families, recent college graduates and businesses seeking to expand their operations are feeling the consequences of state and local inaction firsthand.
The “supply crisis” is consistently cited as one of the most pressing issues on the minds of voters who will be casting ballots this March and November.
State lawmakers took initial steps toward addressing the housing supply crisis last year, but January will reveal how serious the California Legislature is when it comes to advancing meaningful policies to encourage the planning and development of new residential units for both renters and homebuyers.
The time has come for bold action. Californians cannot afford further delay.
As president of the California Association of Realtors (CAR), representing 200,000 real estate professionals, I’m urging lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 50 by the January 31 deadline to advance legislation introduced in 2019. Because Realtors strongly support policies that make it easier to build housing of all levels, we urge the California Legislature to pass SB 50 to the Assembly in order to continue the conversation started by this landmark measure.
Authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), SB 50 would improve California’s zoning laws by promoting higher density housing construction in areas surrounding major transit hubs and job centers. Sen. Wiener has been responsive to opponents’ concerns. Recent amendments address objections that SB 50 was a “one size fits all” solution. These amendments provide more flexibility to local governments in achieving the housing supply goals of SB 50 and allow cities and counties to tailor their local housing element plans to fit their local needs and priorities, while integrating community input. As amended, SB 50 now acts more like a contingency plan for cities that fail to make their own plans as opposed to a universal mandate.
A UC Berkeley study found that SB 50 could quadruple housing and quintuple the number of potential affordable units in the Bay Area. That relief could not come soon enough given California’s estimated shortage of 3.5 million housing units.
A state housing report revealed expensive and inconsistent developer fees across California. It is yet another barrier to increasing housing we desperately need. State Assemblyman Tim Grayson (D-Concord) fought to pass the legislation that led to this report, but now we must go one step further and make fees more equitable and affordable. In fact, this year C.A.R. is sponsoring legislation to require cities and counties to reduce impact and pre-development fees imposed on affordable housing units, proportional to the affordability of the unit included in the density bonus application.
A concession of this nature seeks to encourage the construction of more affordable units by reducing costs to produce units. If enacted, above-market-rate units will no longer have to absorb 100 percent of the below-market-rate units’ pre-development costs, which will likely lead to lower housing costs for all income levels purchasing in that development.
California is in a housing supply crisis. Our state’s future is on the line. If we delay, future generations will suffer. Many California lawmakers realize this harsh reality, and we are grateful for their commitment. But there are also other forces at work — NIMBYs and their allies — who want to keep the status quo. Realtors will continue fighting to increase the supply of new housing, in partnership with all of those who want more housing including our federal, state and local elected officials.
We’re serious about housing supply and stand ready to work with Gov. Gavin Newsom to address this acute crisis. If we fail to act, our state and our children will suffer the consequences for years to come.
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