California needs more housing — especially in the suburbs

We know that California has a housing shortage. Back in 2017, a team of UCLA economists estimated that the state would need to build at least three million new homes to close the gap — a gap that has widened over the past half-decade. Notwithstanding Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaign promise to produce 3.5 million new homes by 2025, permitting data suggests that housing construction in the Golden State has flatlined.

We also know that not every part of California is underbuilding at the same rate. In a new report, “Housing Underproduction in California 2023,” California YIMBY teamed up with MapCraft Labs to understand what parts of California are building their fair share — and what parts of the state are blocking housing.

Imagine California didn’t have the current thicket of regulations blocking housing. Toss out arbitrary zoning restrictions and onerous environmental review mandates — where would we expect housing to be built, based on market indicators? To put it another way, how much housing would we expect developers to build in any given city and county if we got the regulations driving the shortage out of the way?

After calculating market-feasible housing capacity for every city and county in the state, we compared it to permitting rates over the past five years to calculate a “conversion rate.” A high conversion rate means that a jurisdiction is letting the market work, while low conversion rate suggests that the jurisdiction is throwing up artificial barriers to new housing construction — potentially through restrictive land-use rules, high impact fees, or unreliable permitting.

What did we find? The data suggests that suburbs across Southern California and the Bay Area — especially in affluent coastal areas — are vastly underbuilding. For all the focus on high profile housing fights in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, suburbs across California deserve more of the blame for the state’s housing shortage.

Up in the Bay Area, it’s the usual suspects: as you might expect, places like Napa County and Marin County build little housing, despite explosive demand. Pricey suburbs like Larkspur, Hillsborough, and Orinda likewise rank among the worst offenders, in terms of not allowing housing that might otherwise have been built.

Here in metropolitan Los Angeles, it isn’t so much the counties that are driving the shortage, but the suburbs.

This is especially true of cities along the Los Angeles County-Orange County border, including Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, and La Palma. While they rarely make national headlines, these cities combine high demand for housing with large residential lots and underbuilt commercial corridors well-suited to infill redevelopment — and yet, these communities, like so many other California suburbs, build virtually no new housing.

Further down the coast, newer suburbs like Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, and Rancho Santa Margarita likewise had some of the worst conversion rates in the state. It isn’t hard to see why: Rancho Santa Margarita, for example, hasn’t permitted a single apartment to be built in over a decade. Many of these jurisdictions also permit few accessory dwelling units (ADUs) relative to peers across the region.

This coastal housing crunch has forced hundreds of thousands of California families to move in search of affordable housing — if not out of the state altogether, at least to places like the Central Valley. If there’s a silver lining to our findings, it’s that these receiving jurisdictions are rising to the occasion: Bakersfield, Modesto, and Stockton are building housing at over 100 times the statewide rate, picking up the slack where coastal cities have failed.

But they can’t do it alone. There is simply no way California is going to create the next generation of homeowners or roll back our mounting homelessness crisis unless every part of the state builds its fair share — especially our high-cost coastal areas. As our research shows, developers are ready and willing to build housing, if only the government would let them.

This isn’t just research for the sake of research: At the local level, elected officials and regulators in cities with the largest housing gaps must make a serious effort to clear barriers to new construction. And at state level, decisions about which cities to designate as “prohousing” jurisdictions, or which cities to subject to stricter scrutiny, should be driven by data, rather than political factors.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise

This is least affordable housing market since 1984, and it’s getting worse

It now takes nearly 41% of the median household’s monthly income to cover the principal and interest payments on a median-priced home

The last time America’s housing market was this unaffordable, Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

It now takes nearly 41% of the median household’s monthly income to cover the principal and interest payments on a median-priced home, according to research from Intercontinental Exchange. It comes at a time of uncomfortably high prices after a bout with the worst inflation in a generation. Housing is eating up a bigger portion of paychecks as gas, groceries and other loan prices are sky-high.

Also see: 46% of Southern California houses are asking $1 million or more

Housing now takes up the biggest chunk of paychecks since 1984, according to ICE, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange. That’s up 0.4% from last month’s report, which also showed America’s homes were at the least affordable level in 39 years.

The portion of households’ paychecks needed to pay for housing has surged in the past few decades. Over the past 35 years, this metric averaged less than 25%.

Wannabe homebuyers are getting hammered by a painful combination of high mortgage rates and high home prices. The one-two punch of has pushed the principal and interest payment needed to buy a median-priced home up by $144 over just the past month alone, according to ICE. For the first time, monthly payments are above $2,500 – and that doesn’t even include taxes, insurance or other fees.

“The situation was already dire,” Andy Walden, ICE’s vice president of enterprise research said in the report, adding that the recent jump in mortgage rates has made it even worse.

Also see: Southern California has 33 of priciest US ZIPs for homes

This problem is pushing the American dream further from reach for some prospective first-time homebuyers. They’ve been forced to rent instead, delaying their ability to build wealth through homeownership.

Turmoil in the bond market and the Federal Reserve’s war on inflation have driven up mortgage rates to levels unseen since 2000.

After seven consecutive weekly increases, the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to an average of 7.76% in the week ending November 2, according to Freddie Mac.

That’s miles away from the pre-Covid rate of 3.8% in the fall of 2019. Aided by emergency action from the Fed, mortgage rates briefly tumbled below 2.7% in late 2020 and early 2021.

The higher mortgage rates go, the less home people can afford.

At today’s rates, monthly payments on a $500,000 home would stand at roughly $3,265 after putting 20% down.

That’s $1,165 more than two years ago, when mortgage rates were barely above 3%.

Despite high borrowing costs, home prices continue to rise amid a supply crunch.

US home prices climbed in August to a record high, marking the seventh straight month of increases, according to S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller.

Of course, that’s good news for existing homeowners, assuming they don’t want to move.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Newsom Signs Laws to Fast-Track Housing on Churches’ Lands, Streamline Housing Permitting Process

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Religious institutions and nonprofit colleges in California will be allowed to turn their parking lots and other properties into low-income housing under a new law aimed at combating the ongoing homeless crisis.

The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday, rezones land owned by nonprofit colleges and religious institutions, such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, to allow for affordable housing. Starting in 2024, they can bypass most local permitting and environmental review rules that can be costly and lengthy. The law is set to sunset in 2036.

California is home to nearly a third of all homeless people in the U.S. The crisis has sparked a movement among religious institutions, dubbed “yes in God’s backyard,” or “YIGBY,” in cities across the state, with a number of projects already in the works.

But churches and colleges often face big hurdles trying to convert their surplus land and underutilized parking lots into housing because their land is not zoned for residential use.

Proponents said the new law will serve as another tool to help build much-needed housing in the state. A recent study by the University of California, Berkeley, Terner Center for Housing Innovation estimated California religious and higher education campuses have more than 170,000 acres (68,797 hectares) of land that would be eligible under the bill.

Several cities opposed the bill and said it would take away local control over housing developments.

Newsom also signed another high priority housing bill authored by Sen. Scott Wiener to extend the life of a landmark law streamlining rules about housing projects that has led to construction of thousands of homes aimed at easing the state’s housing crisis.

“California desperately needs to ramp up housing production, and the Governor’s actions today help put us on a path to achieve that goal,” Wiener said in a statement. “The era of saying no to housing is coming to an end. We’ve been planting seeds for years to get California to a brighter housing future, and today we’re continuing strongly down that path.”

The original law, which took effect in 2018 and is set to expire in 2026, allows housing developers to bypass most local permitting processes for multifamily housing projects in cities falling short of the state-mandated housing goals. The law has helped fast-track more than 19,000 homes, with roughly 60% of them being affordable housing, according to the bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener. The new law would extend the existing rules by 10 years.

The new law would also remove the requirement to hire “skilled and trained workers” for a number of projects, a provision typically sought by the powerful construction trades union. Instead, it requires workers to be paid prevailing wage, which is the average wage paid to workers, laborers and mechanics in a particular area. Facing opposition from labor groups, Wiener added amendments to bolster labor regulations on bigger projects.

The bill had also met fierce opposition from the state Coastal Commission and environmental groups in July because it would remove the exemption on streamlined housing development in coastal zones. Opponents had worried the bill would place housing in areas prone to sea-level rise or wildfires and make way for luxury apartments, not affordable housing, along the coastline.

Wiener worked with the commission to clarify the legislation won’t apply to environmentally sensitive or wildfire-prone areas. The commission withdrew its opposition, but a number of cities in Southern California continued to oppose the bill, arguing it would take away local control.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

New Initiative Strikes at Root of Housing Ills

California’s housing crisis is a long time in the making, caused by regulations, land-use restrictions and developer fees that depress supply and drive up the cost of building.

With statewide median home prices hovering around $750,000 and costs in sought-after coastal areas soaring above $1 million, the situation destroys homeownership opportunities for the non-wealthy, sends young families to other states and exacerbates homelessness.

It’s gotten so bad that the state Legislature —  the same body that passed many of the growth controls, urban boundaries and environmental rules at the root of the problem — has passed a succession of laws that make it easier to build (at least within the urban footprint).

Those laws are welcome, but they haven’t yet made a dent because they don’t address the biggest obstacles.

A group called Californians for Home Ownership (californians4homeownership.com) is gathering signatures for a statewide initiative campaign that deals directly with two major cost drivers — the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and developer fees that localities impose on new projects.

Virtually anyone can file a lawsuit that halts or delays construction for years. And CEQA never was intended to be used for housing proposals, so the group would require any lawsuit alleging CEQA noncompliance to be filed by district attorneys or the attorney general.

That would stop labor unions from using the threat of CEQA challenges to secure wage demands from developers and NIMBY activists from stopping the construction of housing near their homes.

None of that is how CEQA was intended to be used, yet it is routinely how CEQA is abused. This is why, for many years, you can find elected officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties acknowledging the problems of CEQA. As this editorial board frequently recalls, Gov. Jerry Brown called CEQA reform “the Lord’s work.”

If Sacramento politicians can’t find the courage to stand up to special interests and change CEQA, this measure might have to do.

The initiative also would “would end the extortionate tax on new homes by capping impact fees at a proportion of construction costs, thereby creating the incentive to build truly affordable homes,” as one of the group’s founders, Steve Hilton, explained in these pages.

One of the reason that builders focus on luxury homes is because outsized fees make it cost-prohibitive to build more affordable places.

Fundamentally, the housing crisis in California is a matter of simple economics. When you make it harder and costlier to build more housing, you get less of it.

If you want more housing to be built in California, you must make it easier to do so. Part of that has been done by the California Legislature through implemented and ongoing zoning and land-use reforms. But the threat of frivolous CEQA lawsuits remains, and costly impact fees remain.

Most initiative proposals fail to raise the money needed to qualify for the ballot and successfully secure support at the polls.

Nevertheless, this idea offers a model for reform.

If lawmakers are serious about the housing crisis, they ought to lend their support to it.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

California Looks to Spend Some Medicaid Money on Housing

At the start of 2022, Thomas Marshall weighed 311 pounds. He had been hospitalized 10 times in five years, including six surgeries. He had an open wound on his left leg that refused to heal — made worse by living in a dirty, moldy house with five other people, two ball pythons, four Chihuahuas and a cage full of rats.

More than a year later, Marshall has lost nearly 100 pounds. His wound has healed. His blood pressure has returned to normal levels. His foot, which had nerve damage, has improved to the point he goes on regular walks to the park.

Lots of factors are at play in Marshall’s dramatic turnaround, but the one he credits the most is finally having stable housing, after the nonprofit Sacramento Covered helped him get a one-bedroom, 500 square-foot (46.4-square-meter) apartment in a downtown high rise. He has hardwood floors, white pine cabinets and a glass jar on the counter filled with Bit-O-Honeys.

“To me it’s the most important 500 square feet I’ve ever had,” he said. “Living here has just improved my well-being in every possible way.”

Marshall’s story is part of a radical rethinking of the relationship between housing and health care in the U.S. For decades, Medicaid, the joint state and federal health insurance program for people with disabilities or low incomes, would only pay for medical expenses. But last year the Biden administration gave Arizona and Oregon permission to use Medicaid money for housing — a nod to reams of research showing people in stable housing are healthier.

Now California wants to join those states, building on the success of programs like the one that got Marshall housing. Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed spending more than $100 million per year in the state’s Medicaid program to pay for up to six months of housing for people who are or risk becoming homeless; are coming out of prison or foster care; or are at risk for hospitalization or emergency room visits.

It would be the biggest test yet of using Medicaid money for housing. California has the nation’s largest Medicaid program, with more than 13 million patients — or about a third of the state’s population. California also has nearly a third of the nation’s homeless population, according to federal data.

“It’s a huge step toward breaking down the silos that have gotten in the way of taking care of the whole person rather than limb by limb and illness by illness,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group.

It would also be an expensive step. California is expected to have a $22.5 billion budget deficit this year, and it could get bigger in years to come. Meanwhile the state’s Medicaid spending is projected to increase by $2.5 billion over the next three years, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“What we’re really doing is expanding the welfare state, which is going to become just a huge financial problem,” said Wayne Winegarden, senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, a group that advocates for free-market policies.

California experimented with using Medicaid money for some housing-related expenses in 2016 when it launched a pilot project in 26 counties. While Medicaid did not pay for rent, it paid for things like security deposits and furniture.

In Marshall’s case, he pays his own rent, using some of the $1,153 per month he gets from Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. But Medicaid paid for his security deposit, bed, sofa, table, chairs and nearly 3 1/2 gallons of Pine Sol. Marshall said keeping his apartment clean is one thing that helped his leg wound to finally heal.

Over five years the program has reduced expensive hospital stays and emergency room visits for people on Medicaid, saving taxpayers an average of $383 per patient per year, according to an analysis by researchers at UCLA.

Now California wants to go further by using Medicaid money to directly pay some people’s rent. Democratic Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, who chairs the budget subcommittee that will vet Newsom’s proposal, said lawmakers are supportive. Arambula spent a decade as an emergency room doctor.

“I became very good at being able to get cockroaches out of people’s ears,” Arambula said. “The living conditions of many of our communities, especially in our rural communities, really can affect a person’s ability to get adequate sleep, to be prepared for the next day and to stay healthy.”

Advocates for homeless people say they welcome such programs but spending more money on rent isn’t enough, noting the state still has a massive shortage of affordable housing.

Kelly Bennett, founder and CEO of Sacramento Covered, said that during California’s first experiment with using Medicaid money for housing services, it would often take up to eight months for workers to place a patient in an apartment. In some cases, people have waited for years to find a place.

“Even when you have the deposit money and you have some rental subsidy, it’s still very, very challenging to find units — and to find units where the landlords will lease to our clients,” Bennett said.

Marshall said he grew up in Sacramento and got a degree in dietic technology and culinary arts. But a 30-year addiction to meth landed him on the streets from the late 1990s through about 2006. He camped at an old landfill, often eating leftovers from people’s picnics at a nearby park.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Huntington Beach Leaders Say They’ll Challenge Housing Mandates

Huntington Beach officials say they are taking a stand for local control as they square off against state leaders in a dispute over housing goals for the coastal town.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, Mayor Tony Strickland, Councilman Casey McKeon and City Attorney Micheal Gates told a crowd of residents and reporters gathered at City Hall they will contest state mandates requiring city leaders to plan for 13,000 more housing units over the next several years – it’s the city’s allocation in state housing plans to meet future needs. They also said they are on board with a proposed law before the Planning Commission this week that would to exempt Huntington Beach from the so-called builder’s remedy provision of the state’s Housing Accountability Act.

The provision requires local governments without approved housing elements – the plans cities have to submit for how they are zoning to meet their allocation – to accept projects submitted by developers so long as 20% of the homes are earmarked for low-income households or all of the homes are for moderate-income families. The submitted projects must still conform to appropriate building and design standards and comply with environmental impact rules and the California Coastal Act.

“This is a reckless, blank check for developers that if allowed to occur beyond the reach of local zoning controls, will create permanent, potentially disastrous, effects for the city,” McKeon said. “To be clear, these unregulated projects will become permanent fixtures in our city.”

He argued local control is needed to keep the city from becoming overly urbanized with high-rise buildings, saying meeting the mandated housing would double the size of the community.

“The city cannot sit idly by and allow developers to circumvent the local zoning controls and force the city to, in part, choose between environmental protection or housing – all the while, waiting for the state to approve the housing element that we are negotiating in good faith,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

But state officials are warning Huntington Beach’s plan to block the use of the builder’s remedy application would be a violation of state law.

“California is facing a housing crisis of epic proportions, and it’s going to take all of us doing our part to ensure that Californians have access to affordable housing,” state Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a letter to the city sent Monday, Feb. 13. “The city of Huntington Beach’s proposed ordinance attempts to unlawfully exempt the city from a state law that creates sorely needed additional housing for low- and moderate-income Californians.

“I urge cities to take seriously their obligations under state housing laws,” Bonta added. “If you don’t, we will hold you accountable.”

The California Department of Housing and Community Development sent a “notice of potential violation” to Huntington Beach officials last month, alerting them the proposed ordinance would likely violate state housing and permitting laws.

Gates, the city’s attorney, submitted the final version of the proposed ordinance, along with a legal memorandum, last week for the Planning Commission to review at its meeting this week, prompting another letter from HCD officials, along with Bonta’s letter, reiterating the agency’s position after reviewing the proposed language of the ordinance.

Both letters warn the city that adopting the proposed ordinance and restricting housing production under the builder’s remedy provision would violate the law.

“We’re not looking for a fight with the state,” but will protect the city’s local control, McKeon said.

Mayor Strickland emphasized the city, while it challenges the 13,000 home mandate, is still working on its housing plan and has 60 to 90 more days to finalize it.

But state approval of a city’s housing element doesn’t invalidate any builder’s remedy applications received during the window when a city is out of compliance. Huntington Beach officials said the city has not received any applications.

“Sacramento wants to urbanize Huntington Beach, and we’re going to fight it,” Strickland said, drawing cheers Tuesday from about a dozen residents dressed in patriotic-colored clothing. “That’s what our residents want us to do. We are not going to allow the governor to do to Huntington Beach what he did to San Francisco. We’re doing what the state is asking us to do, but we’re unleashing the city attorney to sue.”

The question over local vs. state control might require court intervention, Gates said. “We believe there is a question as to whether the state can make these demands.”

Gates said Huntington Beach is one of 121 charter cities and, as part of the California Constitution, he argued that it “supersedes state law.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

‘NIMBYism is Destroying the State.’ Gavin Newsom Ups Pressure On Cities To Build More Housing

 Gov. Gavin Newsom defended his administration’s work on housing and homelessness during an interview with The Chronicle’s editorial board Thursday, promising to crack down on local opposition to housing projects.

“Taxpayers deserve more in terms of results, not just inputs,” Newsom said. “They want to see results.”

In the last few years, Newsom has been responsible for putting more state funding into housing and homelessness programs than any other recent governor. His previous budgets have poured billions in funding to increase housing production and help get homeless people off the streets, but Californians aren’t yet seeing results they want, as they continue to rank housing and homelessness as top concerns.

Three years into Newsom’s tenure, housing production remains sluggish. Although preliminary numbers show the homeless population has shrunk in San Francisco, it’s grown in almost every other Bay Area county that reported data last week.

Where’s the holdup? At the local level, Newsom argues, where “not in my backyard” politics prevent homeless shelters from being constructed and housing projects from being approved.

“NIMBYism is destroying the state,” he told the editorial board in an interview seeking the paper’s endorsement in his upcoming re-election bid. “We’re gonna demand more from our cities and counties.”

Tensions over state intervention in local housing policy have escalated in California in recent years as the housing crisis has raged and lawmakers have passed dozens of new laws pressuring local governments to build more homes. A proposed ballot measure that would override recent state housing laws and give local jurisdictions far more power over housing decisions did not qualify for the November ballot, but organizers have said they’ll try to make the 2024 ballot.

Newsom’s promise to hold cities and counties accountable isn’t new. One of his first actions as governor was to sue the city of Huntington Beach for not planning to build enough affordable housing, something local governments must do under state law. He said his new Housing Accountability Unit within the Housing and Community Development Department is poring over the minutes of local planning committees to determine whether local governments are complying with state housing laws that require them to plan for affordable housing and, in some cases, approve it.

“It’s critical to hold cities and counties accountable,” he said. “There’s a crisis. Why the hell are you stopping projects? I mean, we’ve seen it over and over.”

That was illustrated last year, when Newsom’s Housing and Community Development Department began investigating whether San Francisco supervisors violated state law in rejecting a 495-unit apartment complex near Sixth and Market streets. That could potentially lead to the Newsom administration suing San Francisco, just as it sued Huntington Beach.

Newsom pointed to that lawsuit and suggested that was just a preview of the work his office will do to hold cities accountable on housing and homelessness.

In his revised state budget, which he unveiled earlier this month, Newsom identified homelessness as the state’s top issue and proposed $700 million in new homeless aid and $500 million to convert malls and office buildings into housing. Those proposals would build on billions in housing and homelessness funding that Newsom approved in last year’s budget.

Click here to read the full article in the San Francisco Chronicle

Anti-worker or Pro-Worker? Why Labor Unions are Fighting Over a Housing Hill

More than two dozen men and women clad in hard hats and safety vests filed into a crowded hearing room April 27 to cheer on yet another bill trying to solve California’s housing crisis.

The Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act would allow developers to fast-track local approval to build affordable housing where offices, strip malls and parking lots sit right now. But it has quickly become one of the most hotly contested bills in the California Legislature because the labor requirements on those projects satisfy some but not most unions. The bill, introduced by Assembly Housing Chair Buffy Wicks, mirrors multiple bills that died in recent years as a result of squabbling between developers and labor unions.

The men and women in hard hats, however, were carpenters, and so represented something previous bills didn’t have: Support from both developers and some construction unions.

But despite the neon flashes in a sea of suits, the impasse is far from over.

Following the carpenters, a parade of electricians, pipe-fitters, ironworkers and drywallers — wearing union logos but no hard hats — stepped up to the microphone to voice their disapproval. While the state’s Conference of Carpenters, which represents about 82,000 workers, co-sponsored the bill, the Building and Construction Trades Council — an umbrella labor group known colloquially as “the Trades” and spanning almost half a million workers in nearly every other construction industry — remains vehemently opposed. The California Labor Federation, which represents more than 1 million members including the Trades, said they “stand in strong solidarity” with the Trades. 

After several years of gridlock, the rare split within the construction unions presents both an awkward conundrum and a potential for compromise on a proposal that would free up swaths of land for development of affordable housing. It certainly makes it harder to paint bill supporters as anti-labor — a phrase that amounts to slander for politicians in deep blue California.

Longtime Democratic strategist Garry South said lawmakers may have to calculate which facet of organized labor will cause them the most pain during a major election year. And the Trades, which contribute tens of millions of dollars in campaigns and engage in aggressive lobbying, remain a force to be reckoned with. According to a CalMatters analysis of the 2022 races so far, state and local Trades councils have contributed more than $1 million to political candidates while carpenters groups have given more than $800,000.

But as the housing crisis reaches a fever pitch among voters, South said “elected officials will ignore it at their own peril.”

That’s the motivating factor for the bill’s author.

“I don’t want to be the housing chair presiding over inertia and status quo,” said Wicks, a Democrat from Oakland. “Here’s the reality: I and 79 of my other colleagues in the Assembly every weekend go home to constituents who are homeless, constituents who have to live in people’s garages, constituents who are squeezed out of their house, who are living in motels, who are living in their cars, who are being evicted or experiencing foreclosure, or who are barely hanging on. That is simply not okay. And so what that means is building more low-income and middle-income housing. And that’s what this bill does.”

What does the labor language really say?

The bill, which has the support of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, would allow housing that is 100% affordable to low-income households to be built “by right” on areas now zoned for offices, retail and parking. That means skipping many city council meetings that tack on costly delays as well as the state’s premier environmental law many blame for its housing woes. Livable California, a local control group, has already dubbed it “the worst bill of 2022.”

The bill would also allow mixed-income housing, with a minimum of 15% of units affordable to low-income households for rent or 30% of units affordable to moderate-income households for sale, along commercial corridors such as strip malls.

The Carpenters and the Trades are at loggerheads over how much unionized labor developers would have to use to take advantage of the streamlining. The Trades are pushing for language requiring a certain amount of the workforce be graduates of an apprenticeship program, which effectively means union members. That’s common for public works, but unusual for residential construction. 

A 2019 Trades-commissioned study found less than a fifth of construction workers across California were unionized in 2017, a number likely lower in the residential sector.

Developers argue the standard — that at least 30% or in some cases 60% of the workers in each trade for a given project be graduates of an apprenticeship program, most of which are run by unions — is too hard to meet, particularly in areas of the state lacking in apprenticeship programs. The Carpenters agree.

“If you had a standard that can’t be met when you need to move forward on construction then it’s not a standard, it’s a barrier,” said Daniel Curtin, director of the California Conference of Carpenters.

Click here to read the full article at CALMatters

Exclusive: Housing Debate Has Dominated Campos and Haney’s Assembly Race. New Reports Uncover Their Track Records

Anurupa Ganguly loved living in Brooklyn. She loved its diversity, restaurants, culture and walkability. When she felt pulled back to her home state of California, she zeroed in on San Francisco’s Mission District as a similar neighborhood.

It was similar — except for the housing options. In New York City, she’d moved a few times, often finding a new unit the same weekend she started looking. In the Mission, vacancies were incredibly sparse — and expensive.

But she and her husband managed to rent a small one-bedroom apartment at 1188 Valencia St. in February 2021 for $3,900 a month plus $400 for utilities and a storage unit. Like many San Franciscans, they’re now hooked. Unlike many San Franciscans, they plan to stick around when they have kids.

“We’ve really fallen in love with our home here and the community here and the work we do here,” said Ganguly, 36.

Ganguly’s new life, though, wouldn’t be possible if then-Supervisor David Campos had gotten his way back in 2015 — because her home probably wouldn’t exist.

The building with about 50 residences, including six below-market-rate units, is home to a diverse mix of people, many of them families living in larger units with children. But the development would have been significantly delayed, if it had been built at all, if Campos’ proposed 18-month halt on construction of market-rate housing in the Mission — with an option to extend it to 30 months — had passed muster at the board or ballot box. Even Campos himself now acknowledges the moratorium was not a good idea.

That’s a central point made in a new report examining Campos’ housing record — and another looking at the record of his state Assembly opponent, Supervisor Matt Haney — by a UC Berkeley associate professor of political science and avowed YIMBY who wants to see more housing built all over the city. And who, for the record, is voting for Haney.

David Broockman, working in his spare time, has taken on the mind-numbing task of plumbing planning documents, watching government meetings and filing public records requests to analyze the housing records of San Francisco’s leaders, one by one. (You may recall his first report on Supervisor Dean Preston, whom he called “the worst offender” when it comes to halting housing on a board with several candidates for the title.)

Broockman plans more deep dives into the housing track records of the supervisors up for re-election in November.

As the Assembly race nears its April 19 finish line, housing — or San Francisco’s lack thereof — has become a primary focus. It’s obvious that the city and state, both grappling with a major housing shortage and affordability crisis, need more places for people of all income levels to live. It’s also obvious that the Board of Supervisors hasn’t done nearly enough to approve that housing, and that the city makes it far too hard and expensive to build the units that do manage to get approved.

Clearly, our housing crisis isn’t the fault of any one elected official, but emanates from an overall desire by too many residents and their leaders to freeze certain San Francisco neighborhoods in amber, pretend the basic laws of supply and demand don’t exist, and continue to see their own home values skyrocket.

Still, it’s crucial to look at individual leaders’ track records and hold them to account.

As Broockman explained, “For any individual project, there are often excuses that sound reasonable, but it’s only by zooming out that you get a sense of the overall pattern.”

Click here to read the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

As California’s Eviction Protections Wane, Renters Grow Uneasy

New bill would offer limited extension of eviction moratorium

Melissa Lopez struggled through unemployment, homelessness and illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The single mother finally secured a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose for her young boy and adult daughter with help from nonprofit Amigos de Guadalupe.

But Lopez left her job as a security guard to take care of her son and her health and owed $9,000 in rent. She applied in October for California’s emergency rental assistance program. While she waited months to get approved, her landlord served her multiple eviction notices. State renter protections allowed her to fend off displacement.

On April 1, those protections are due to expire. Lopez is waiting on a second aid application, and might not be able to pay next month’s rent. “It’s been concerning,” she said.

A new bill could offer a reprieve for Lopez and tens of thousands of Bay Area renters still waiting for the state to review their applications for help. But millions of other tenants not covered under the new bill face uncertainty, upheaval, and even displacement as state courts open more broadly to eviction suits for unpaid rent.

For months, tenant advocates have warned of an “eviction tsunami” when state protections end. Landlords generally were prohibited from displacing tenants for failing to pay rent during the pandemic as long as tenants had applied to the state or another local government program for aid.

But the state program, Housing is Key, has been overwhelmed by applications. Tenants and landlords say the process is confusing, slow and often unresponsive to the needs of non-native English speakers. More than half of applicants are still waiting for their files to be reviewed, according to an analysis by the National Equity Atlas.

The gradual end of renter protections could put many California renters in peril – if they haven’t sought assistance and don’t pay April rent. Housing experts now expect a flood of evictions to hit courtrooms around the state in mid-April.

The new bill, AB 2179, backed by legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom, could offer three more months of an eviction moratorium for a fraction of at-risk renters: the estimated 366,000 California tenants who, like Lopez, are waiting for their requests for back rent and utilities to be processed.

At least 44,000 Bay Area renter families are still waiting on the emergency assistance program, according to the National Equity Atlas. Researchers estimate 740,000 California tenants – out of the state’s 17 million renters – were behind in rent in February.

The $5.6 billion state relief effort, funded by federal pandemic assistance, has distributed about $2.5 billion in the last 12 months. Separate, smaller city and county programs, along with private charities, have also handed out millions in aid.

The bill would mark California’s fourth extension of eviction protections, and is expected to be considered in committee Monday. It would extend the eviction moratorium through June 30 – but only for tenants with active applications in the state relief program. The bill would also pre-empt local efforts to impose new moratoriums in cities and counties, a provision broadly favored by landlords. Local restrictions being considered in San Jose and San Francisco, for example, would be illegal. Local protections in Oakland and Alameda County are already being challenged in court.

“We need to protect eligible renters who have applied for relief funds but haven’t received them yet, or who will apply before the March 31 deadline,” Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, said in a joint statement. “We made a commitment to those who are in line and they shouldn’t be harmed because of how long the process is taking.”

Debra Carlton of the California Apartment Association said the proposal would allow landlords to get rid of tenants who have a history of non-payment and who haven’t applied for the state program.  “The time has come,” she said. “We’re coming out of the pandemic.”

The proposed, limited extension is a let-down for tenant advocates. A coalition of nonprofits lobbied lawmakers to extend the relief program and accept new applicants until August and add state funding to the pot. An extension would help more families, they argued, while the pandemic threat still disrupts many workers. The statewide unemployment rate in February was 5.4%, above pre-pandemic levels.

“There’s still a lot of need,” said Francisco Duenas of Housing Now!, a nonprofit coalition of tenant advocates.

San Jose-based property manager Jeff Zell said the rental assistance program has been slow and cumbersome, but he’s been able to secure about $2 million in back rent for landlords. Zell, who manages about 2,100 units, said landlords are anxious to break ties with tenants who haven’t paid full rent for months.

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