Will the legislature face the California housing crisis? – Orange County Register


California had a huge and growing housing problem before COVID-19 reared its ugly head 18 months ago, falling short of state building targets every year.

The pandemic, which continues to escalate, “has exacerbated a long-standing housing shortage, intensified a state-wide affordability crisis and caused housing instability,” the Minister says. new state budget.

As unemployed workers struggled, and often failed, to make their monthly payments, home prices skyrocketed, freezing many who aspired to homeownership.

The budget plans that California will add, at best, around 100,000 housing units this year, which is barely half of the 180,000 units according to state housing authorities, are needed to meet current demand. and reduce the backlog. And that projection did not take into account the current outbreak of COVID-19.

The Legislature has reconvened after its summer recess and is rushing towards adjournment in mid-September. Housing is, or should be, its top priority.

While many factors influence the housing shortage, the most important is the reluctance of suburban communities to adopt multi-family housing projects, especially those aimed at low and moderate income tenants.

Nicknamed “not-in-my-backyard” or NIMBY, this is by no means a recent phenomenon. You could trace this back to the anti-Asian exclusion laws of the 19th century, the anti-okie laws of the 20th century, and the pacts of acts reserved for whites and Christians.

As California’s population exploded after WWII, some rural communities attempted to avoid becoming suburban suburbs. When Petaluma passed a strict growth control law in the early 1970s, the developers took legal action and the case went to the United States Supreme Court, which allowed the Petaluma’s law to remain in force.

The state has made multiple attempts to overcome NIMBYism, including imposing residential zoning quotas on regions and cities. Recent versions contain penalties for cities that ignore their quotas and the state has sued a city, Huntington Beach, for ignoring its quota.

One of the state’s many anti-NIMBY actions is the Housing Liability Act, first enacted in 1982 and subsequently strengthened. Essentially, it prohibits local governments from arbitrarily blocking housing projects that “meet objective standards of local development”.

Citing the law, pro-housing organizations have defied local governments when they reject low- and moderate-income projects and two cases stand out as tests of the law’s effectiveness.

One is in Huntington Beach, which rejected a 48-unit project. The California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA) filed a lawsuit, but a local judge ruled for the city, saying it had valid reasons, such as increased traffic, to deny a permit for the project.

CaRLA is also suing San Mateo, which has placed strict design requirements on a 10-unit project that its developers have called expensive. Once again, a local judge ruled on behalf of the city and even questioned whether the Housing Liability Act could be constitutionally applied to a charter city under the self-government doctrine.

Both cases head the legal appeals chain, and state attorney general Rob Bonta is stepping in to the San Mateo case to defend law enforcement.

This brings us back to the final weeks of the legislative session and two very controversial anti-NIMBY measures. Senate Bill 9 is the latest effort by Senate Speaker Pro Tem Toni Atkins to allow small multi-family projects on zoned lots for single-family homes, while SB 10 would allow local governments to approve up to 10 Housing units on any lot, regardless of current zoning, near public transit.

Whether they succeed or fail will tell us a lot about the direction of housing policy as the California crisis continues.

CalMatters is a public service journalism company committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories from Dan Walters, visit calmatters.org/commentary


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