VIDEO: Why California housing fix needs to go big to make a difference

580 200 John Guenther

When nearly half of California households struggle to buy or rent a home in their community, the scope of the state's housing problem is already well documented. In the video above, we feature attendees at the California Economic Summit in December talking about how a housing fix for California can and should “go big” to match the scale of the crisis.

The L.A. Times this week laid out how the state, in order to meet its climate change goals, will need to dramatically remake cities through denser development that is close to job centers and encourages Californians to drive less.

To address poverty and meet its climate change goals and prevent lost economic activity — estimated to be $140 billion each year — the Summit's 2017 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity makes the case for an “all of the above” solution that increases affordability by offering incentives to communities that expand their supply of housing near jobs and transit.

Last week, we were introduced to a family that was “scraping by” on $160,000 a year living in San Francisco. “Families are priced out of the market,” said tech worker parent featured in the Guardian story, who also said the family was living in rented house for $3,000 a month, “ultra-cheap” for the area. Whether you are unsympathetic to the “scraping by” comment, are wowed by the stories of people paying thousands to live in dorm-like conditions — or are completely unsurprised — there's not much doubt that California's housing market is no match for the need in every region.

From across the San Francisco Bay in Alameda County, Kristin Connelly, president and CEO of the East Bay Leadership Council, shared with us at the Summit — and in the above video — how cities that were once considered affordable are seeing a jump in the poverty rate, driven largely by housing costs.

Also last week, data on affordable housing was released and showed California only has around 21 affordable rental units available for every 100 “families earning at or below either the poverty line or 30 percent of the area median income can live in comfortably—without spending more than 30 percent of their household income on rent and utilities.”

One of the elements of the 2017 Roadmap housing action plan is identifying funding to encourage more housing production, including creating a new permanent source of revenue for affordable housing. An example moved forward last week when a bill to create a real estate fee that would direct revenue for more affordable housing cleared its first hurdle in the Legislature.

But, others at the Summit pointed out how there's much more that can be done, in addition to securing dollars to build affordable housing, such as creating innovative policies that incentivize cities and regions to produce more housing, especially for low-income and middle-income Californians.

The 2017 Summit Roadmap, created through housing expert convenings in 2016, provides a legislative framework that does just that by:

1. Connecting fiscal incentives to state and local actions that increase affordability: The Summit has identified a set of incentives that could be offered to jurisdictions that approve new housing close to jobs and transit, to state and local programs that increase housing supplies, and to jurisdictions that change local regulations to reduce housing costs and accelerate development.

2. Increasing accountability for adequate housing: The Summit will support efforts to strengthen existing housing laws, while increasing enforcement for jurisdictions that are not approving adequate affordable and market-rate housing.

Check out our continuing series on housing in California. 


John Guenther

All stories by: John Guenther