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A Way Home for CA: What people are saying this week about the housing crisis - August 18

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  1. The housing crisis is a mess, and with each passing day, fixing it seems to get more complicated. Some of this stems from the fact that, for a lot of Californians (who already have a place to live), more and denser housing is just not a high priority. Case in point: The City of Redondo Beach, where the city council approved a moratorium this week on dense housing and retail projects--earning a standing ovation from residents after the vote.
  2. “Redondo does not have a housing shortage,” said the city's mayor, Bill Brand. “The crisis we do have really is a traffic crisis and an on-again, off-again water crisis. And if we continue with a lot of this residential, soon we’ll have school overcrowding.”
  3. People across California may feel that way, but the data doesn't bear it out.
  4. According to state housing numbers (here), Redondo has actually built only 41 percent of its share of regional housing during the latest eight-year planning cycle--only 913 of 2,234 units. Residents may be leery of new neighbors or more traffic, but by putting a stop to all new mixed-use development, the city is not doing its fair share, it's shifting the housing burden onto neighboring cities, and it's making the housing crisis worse.
  5. Once again, though, there is not much the state--or the rest of the cities in Southern California--can do right now to get Redondo to build more. Several bills moving through the Legislature could change that, of course, including SB 35 (Wiener), which would accelerate the housing approval process in jurisdictions that fail to meet their housing quotas, and AB 678/SB 167 (Bocanegra/Skinner), two bills that would strengthen the state's Housing Accountability Act, making it easier to sue cities that disapprove or delay housing consistent with their own local plans.
  6. Which brings us to the next complication emerging this week: To get a streamlining bill passed this year, the governor and legislative leaders have promised to support a general obligation bond and new permanent funding source for affordable housing. But both ideas have hit rough waters.
  7. As other groups look to the 2018 ballot, the new housing bond (which many hoped would range from $3 billion to $9 billion) is now competing with at least five other bond measures, which would fund water systems, parks, and even voting machines.
  8. A compromise on the size of the bond is likely, but with the leaders of the Senate and Assembly clearly not on the same page when it comes to housing, there is a good chance it will be much smaller than many advocates would like.
  9. And then there's the permanent source of funding for affordable housing, an idea that has revolved for the last several years around the proposals in SB 2 (Atkins), a bill that would raise a fee on real estate documents to support a new $200 million affordable housing fund. This was always going to be a tough vote for many Democrats, especially after approving increases in the gas tax and cap-and-trade this year. This week, Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin) floated a trial balloon promoting a different approach: taxing corporations instead. He also took a dig at the Atkins bill, saying the people paying such fees are "typically middle-class Californians.” (Levine, remember, recently won an exemption for Marin County from regional housing density standards--likely lowering his potential clout on the subject of affordable housing.)
  10. So, where do all of these political cross-currents leave Californians struggling to pay for housing? Not in a good place. Which is to say, in many cases, living two- to three-hours away from their jobs.
  11. But wait, there's some good news! As prices keep climbing and more and more people are displaced, many have wondered why, if supply is so out of whack with demand, the market isn't responding? In June, the first data appeared showing that may be changing.
  12. One big month of building won't solve the crisis, of course--especially when most experts believe the state needs to produce roughly 200,000 units a year FOR TEN YEARS to bring supply back into balance with demand. (Some say it will take even more than that.)
  13. But there are signs the market is changing--even with pushback in places like Redondo Beach. And Brisbane. And Santa Monica. And Redwood City. And Berkeley. And the list goes on.
  14. Which begs the question, of course: Where exactly are new units getting built--and where aren't they? As the governor and Legislature look to craft a deal that makes a dent in the housing crisis, that may be a question worth answering.
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