Earlier this year, the state of California made headlines when it filed a lawsuit against the city of Huntington Beach, accusing the city of failing to comply with state law requiring cities and counties to set aside enough land for new housing.
The state’s move came at the request of Governor Gavin Newsom who has made the state’s housing crisis a focal point of his legislative agenda. Less than two weeks later, Huntington Beach filed the second of two lawsuits against the state in opposition to newly enacted housing development mandates required under California law.
It’s no secret that California has found itself in a major crisis when it comes to the lack of affordable housing. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that a record-high share of Californians say that the lack of affordable housing is a big problem in their region. Even more alarming was the fact that thirty-five percent of respondents said that they are seriously considering leaving the state altogether due to the high cost of housing.
Sadly, the effort to adequately address the state’s housing crisis is weighed down by the long-running battle between Sacramento and local municipalities over the issue of local control. While both sides have legitimate arguments, an objective view would find that responsibility for the dire situation in which California finds itself in cannot be laid at the feet of a single entity.
The state’s housing crisis is a result of decades of legislative and regulatory actions at both the state and local levels aimed at limiting, and in many instances outright stopping new home construction. While there are no quick fixes when it comes to alleviating the state’s housing woes, the Building Industry Association of Southern California strongly believes that real solutions will occur through collaboration, not in the courts.
Sacramento has made housing construction a major policy priority in 2019 which is welcome news. However, this elevated level of attention must be balanced with the importance of respecting local control. Whether through lawsuits, or a myriad of new state mandates, a heavy-handed, top-down approach from Sacramento will only serve to widen the existing rift with local municipalities.
During a recent visit to Sacramento, leadership from the Building Industry Association of Southern California met with members of the state legislature and the governor’s office to discuss the importance of establishing a collaborative process in addressing the housing crisis.
At the same time, cities and counties cannot turn a blind eye to the hurdles which they have created when it comes to the creation of new housing. A proactive approach, including the loosening of overly restrictive zoning requirements, as well as reducing costly development fees, are critical steps to creating an atmosphere hospitable to the development of new housing.
Just as both local and state government have contributed to the housing crisis, it’s imperative that they work together to solve it. Governor Newsom’s meeting to discuss housing with a group of Southern California mayors earlier this year was a positive first step in forming the type of collaborative effort that has been missing up to this point.
Leadership, not litigation, will be the key to producing real solutions.
Jeff Montejano serves as CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California. Headquartered in Irvine, the Building Industry Association of Southern California is a leading advocate for thousands of building industry leaders who are committed to a better future for California by building communities, creating jobs and ensuring housing opportunities for everyone.