In these closing days of 2016, we are reflecting on the past year. California made progress on many important public policy fronts, but unfortunately failed to solve our housing crisis. It’s been reported on this website, and in nearly every California news outlet, that Californians are suffering from a lack of adequate housing stock and high housing costs. Cities are not adding enough new housing to meet demand, families are spending too much of their incomes on housing, people are enduring long commutes because they can’t find affordable housing close to their jobs, and too many talented workers are moving out of state.
This is a problem we must solve in 2017.
At our recent California Housing Forum, held in Sacramento in September, leaders from all sides of the housing conversation convened to discuss the importance of the problem, reasons for the crisis and possible solutions.
Over four hours, thought leaders including Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), the head of the Bay Area Renters Federation, the chief economist of Trulia, the director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, advocates for affordable housing, environmentalists, and developers gathered in the downtown Sacramento library. We discussed lessons learned from 2016 and how we might make progress on housing in 2017.
Six key findings rose to the surface during our four-hour conversation:
- This is an urgent problem – High housing costs are driving talent and enterprise out of California. If we don’t act now, cities may try to fix the problem themselves with rent control, which economists universally agree would exacerbate the problem. We need to build more housing in California.
- We must invite everyone to the table – Past efforts to solve California’s housing crisis (such as Gov. Brown’s “by-right” proposal) failed because some voices (such as labor) were left out of the process. To succeed, future efforts must include the right coalition support.
- Good tools have morphed into bad weapons – Policies like CEQA and the design-review process have become co-opted by “not in my backyard” groups to stall and stop new development. This must change.
- Local incentives must change – Today’s local financial incentives encourage commercial development over residential development. We must change these incentives so cities have more reason to say yes to new housing.
- Our current laws need teeth – California housing development policies and laws currently in effect (like the Housing Accountability Act) must be strengthened and enforced. Today’s housing laws too often go unimplemented.
- Solutions are within reach if we work together – The California Apartment Association will work with a broad coalition to propose a number of public policy solutions to California’s housing crisis in 2017. Please stay tuned in the coming weeks for more details.
A key-findings report from the California Housing Forum is now available on the California Apartment Association website (www.caanet.org). You may also view full video from the California Housing Forum on the website.
While the findings of the Forum will help provide a path toward solutions, what is most important is the energy and focus all sides have in wanting to solve the housing crisis in 2017. Let’s get it done together.
Thomas K. Bannon is CEO of the California Apartment Association. Prior to assuming his present role, Tom was Legislative Advocate for the California Building Association, Director of Political Affairs for the California Association of REALTORS and Government Affairs Director for the Sacramento Association of REALTORS. Tom currently sits on the Board of the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC). He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Psychology and a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from California State University, Chico.