Once again, unions become the main obstacle to statewide reform.
By Steven Greenhut | Even California’s liberal Democrats are starting to understand that the state’s housing crisis is fundamentally a supply-and-demand problem. Home prices have soared to astronomical levels, with a median price above $750,000 in the nine-county Bay Area and nearly $700,000 in Orange County. Years of growth controls and local regulations have restricted housing supply and added as much as 40 percent to the price of every new home that’s built.
Housing is the key reason California has a 24 percent poverty rate (using the U.S. Census Bureau’s new cost-of-living-adjusted index), the highest in the nation. Even a six-figure salary can’t buy a median-priced home in most of the state’s big metro areas, so you can only imagine what exorbitant home and rent prices mean for those people on the lower end of the earnings scale.
As legislators head back to Sacramento after summer recess, a housing package tops the agenda. That’s a troubling idea in and of itself. The same leftist legislators who have created this crisis are offering to fix it. It’s the equivalent of what Ronald Reagan called the nine most terrifying words: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” It might be best to run for the hills, or at least contact U-Haul about the price of moving to Nevada.
Still, those of us who long have pushed for an easier permit process are heartened to find such an idea gaining traction in the Legislature, as well as the support of Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown wants to loosen local zoning restrictions, even though his battle against climate change has made it far more difficult for localities to permit construction of new subdivisions.
The main, encouraging piece of legislation is Senate Bill 35, by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. The bill “creates a streamlined, ministerial approval process for development proponents of multi-family housing if the development meets specified requirements and the local government in which the development is located has not produced enough housing units to meet its regional housing needs assessment,” according to the bill analysis.