California’s Housing Crisis Looks Big for Gavin Newsom

Median house price in California Overshadowed $800,000. Tenants in the state are among the most costly in the country. More than 100,000 people sleep outside or in their cars every night. A crisis, a disaster, religion of grief, a disgrace – no matter what journalists and politicians say, people across the stateIncluding all major candidates for governor in the recall vote This week, agree that the situation is untenable.

The question is what, if anything, the governor can do about it. This is something Governor Gavin Newsom has been talking about for the past three years. And now, with a decisive victory in the recall election approaching $300 million and attracting the attention of the state and the governor for several months, Mr. Newsom is turning his attention back to issues like housing.

In many ways, the answer is different than it was when he took office in 2019.

Currently focus Senate Bill 9will allow duplexes in neighborhoods across the state, and hundreds of unsigned invoices It had accumulated on Mr Newsom’s desk during the recall campaign. But even if Mr. Newsom, who is expected to do so in the coming days, signs it, his legacy on housing will likely depend more on his administration’s ability to enforce them than on the laws passed under his watch. This is because, after years of state frustration over how difficult local governments have made building housing in California, the executive branch has gained much more power over state housing policy than it was a few years ago.

Mr. Newsom’s administration began embracing the role, taking actions such as suing cities for not building enough buildings to keep up with population growth and forming a team to get cities to approve new housing. The moves are part of a nationwide power shift from city councils to government homes in the $1 trillion annual residential construction market.

“In the past, housing was managed by local planning departments and California governors weren’t really paying attention,” said Ben Metcalf, executive director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley. “This has changed.”

Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has sought to survive the pandemic emergency by extending the state’s eviction moratorium despite the end of the federal one and pouring money from the state’s budget surplus and various coronavirus relief packages. return hotels turn into supportive residences.

But California remains one of the most difficult places to build housing in America, causing a supply-demand imbalance. It is a precursor to a nationwide problem that rates middle-income families as unattended, with one in four renting households paying more than half of their pre-tax income in rent.

Planners, economists, and both political parties long sought States will use their power to alleviate housing shortages by breaking local congestion. They point out that suburban governments have little incentive to tackle the problem as they are only accountable to homeowners who prefer higher prices. This conundrum has plagued housing reformers since at least the 1970s, and emerged during California’s recall campaign in Republican debates, where candidates talked about adding more housing but avoided discussions about where housing would go.

These often contradictory comments were the perfect epitome of Californian mood: they are universally unhappy with the state’s high cost of living and the tent cities that have sprung up on highways, parks, and beaches. But homeowners fiercely retain their power to say what is being built next to them. Kevin Faulconer, a former San Diego mayor and Republican candidate in the recall election, all but ran away “When we see some of these laws that want to abolish single family zoning in California, that’s wrong.”

Mr. Newsom tried to walk the same line. He ran a campaign in 2018.Marshall plan for housing that aims to provide 3.5 million New housing units by 2025. The governor began to regret this figure when he took office, and it became fodder for talk show host Larry Elder, his leading recall competitor. seized example of unfulfilled promises. Mr. Elder didn’t need complex research to find the flaws in numbers: In a state that allows about 100,000 residential units a year, 3.5 million — 35 annual home deliveries — at the current rate — is physically close to impossible.

Mr Newsom has remained mostly silent on major zoning legislation since then. Did not enter position Senate Bill 50, a controversial measure that would allow apartments in neighborhoods across the state. And as he passed through both houses of the State Legislature and lingered at his desk, the Senate remained largely silent on Bill 9.

What it does instead is enforce existing laws more aggressively than before. Two weeks after Mr. Newsom took office, California Attorney General to sue For not planning enough new housing for Huntington Beach. Since then, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development has hundreds of letters telling cities to change or simplify their planning codes to comply with state laws.

The governor’s most recent budget allocated $4.3 million to staff.housing accountability unit” consists of planners and lawyers who will oversee local governments’ housing decisions and intervene when they fail to comply with state laws.

Zoning defines the physical character of a neighborhood and who the next-door neighbor might be, so it has drawn much of the attention in California’s housing debate. But in the last few years, the Legislature has quietly passed a series of small measures that, when brought together, radically changed the relationship between state and local government. The new rules change how much housing planning cities must do, make it harder for contractors to prevent construction, and ultimately deprive them of funding and local control if they stray too far from government powers.

The question of how aggressively these laws were enforced fell to the executive branch, as they delegated housing control from local districts to Sacramento. It’s one thing for the state to pass laws desegregation districts, put it aside more land for subsidized housing and requires cities to allow backyard sheds. If implementing them isn’t a priority – which is long NS file by housing laws – they are destined to be ignored.

In an interview after the recall vote, Jason Elliott, Mr. Newsom’s senior adviser on housing policy, swung a series of bill numbers and esoteric texts of planning codes to point to dozens of mostly unused housing arrangements. Environmental measures that support increased intensity to reduce car trips. Various laws that allow backyard units. A way for developers to sue cities Don’t follow your own zoning rules. These are the types of laws the new housing accountability unit will try to enforce.

“I will never say that we have finished passing laws and that we cannot do more,” Mr. Elliott said. “But what we really need to do if we want to see units appear is to get a few dozen people to think about this and just that and empower them to reach the cities.”

Will Mr. Newsom be able to reach close to 3.5 million new units? No. Even if it was politically possible, it would strain the lumber and labor supply.

It took several decades for California to fall into such a bad housing crisis. Enormous rhetoric and promises to millions of units are enough for a campaign slogan, but the truth is more like a gradual digging process.

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