California’s solar-panel mandate for new homes will keep the cost of living unaffordable.

Solar panelsCalifornia, where a modest, burned-out home in San Jose just sold for nearly $1 million, well above its asking price, is in the throes of a housing-affordability crisis. The state’s latest response to the housing crunch: a mandate that builders install solar panels on every new home in the Golden State.

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It’s tough to overstate the high cost of housing in California, even relative to the state’s high incomes. In San Jose, the average home costs 10.3 times the area’s median income, according to Demographia’s International Housing Affordability Survey. This high ratio is not due to some local bubble — it’s 9.4 in Los Angeles, 9.1 in San Francisco, and 8.4 in San Diego. Elsewhere in the country — even in relatively prosperous cities with high growth — housing is more affordable. In Columbus, Ohio, and in Atlanta, for instance, home prices average only about three times the median income. Even New York City, considered “severely unaffordable,” scores just 5.7.

Regulations that stifle building are a big part of the problem. Reason illustrated the absurdity of California’s building rules when it profiled a laundromat owner in San Francisco who has spent four years and $1 million trying to develop apartments on the site of his one-story, non-historic building in a city starving for new housing. It’s so tough to find an affordable place to live in San Francisco that people in their late thirties are living in dorms.

But beyond the zoning and regulatory barriers, mandates that raise prices are an underreported part of the housing price challenge in California. The New York Times estimates that the solar-panel requirement will add $8,000 – $12,000 to the cost of a home — close to the price of a year’s in-state tuition at UC Berkeley. One local chapter of Habitat for Humanity says that the charity will have to raise an additional $80,000 to $100,000 per year just to keep building the same number of homes. Advocates insist that solar power saves money in the long run, but if it’s such a great deal, why does California have to legislate it?

The state’s rationale for imposing the directive is, of course, climate change. But as New York Times climate reporter Brad Plumer tweeted, adding 10,000 new apartments in San Francisco would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions in the state by three times as much as the solar-panel mandate because urban apartment-dwellers use less energy than single-home occupants. California is already a green-friendly state. Building more housing that lets more people live in California, even at current energy-efficiency levels, would have a positive effect on emissions. The alternative is forcing people to move out of state and into more polluting jurisdictions.

State legislators made an attempt to expand housing availability with Senate Bill 827, which would have preempted local zoning rules by requiring cities to allow midrise construction near rail stations and major bus stops. The legislation should have pleased climate-change activists by facilitating the construction of new transit-oriented development and increasing density. But powerful environmental groups in California, including the Sierra Club, lined up against the bill, which failed in committee.

With its heavy-handed, top-down approach to zoning, SB 827 raised legitimate concerns about local control over land use—but the bill’s opponents block any plan that would materially increase housing supply in transit-accessible areas. California’s environmentalist-NIMBY axis has been highly effective in driving housing costs to unsustainable levels. The failure to build new housing in America’s most climate-friendly locales suggests that the underlying rationale for California’s rules is not climate, but exclusion.


  1. askeptic says

    Morons do what Morons gotta do.

  2. Just Sayin says

    The author seems to imply a nefarious reason for the actions of the state’s leaders when the real reason is that they are seriously deluded and just plain stupid. There is no cure.

  3. The CAPTIVE says

    The panels are not free–and we do not know the hidden costs as well.-How long will they last? Then who replaces them and what is the cost then? There is so much we do not know -but I remember the solar panels that were destroyed as that Obama-Brown fiasco failed. Then who ran away with all that money?

    • Boris Badenov says

      I know the hidden costs quite well, I’ve had a solar array for 13 years.
      1. Inverters die, appox. $2000 to replace one.
      2. Thousands to remove and replace when you replace a roof
      3. You have MAYBE 7 months of good energy supply and then it’s only for 6 or so hours a day depending upon the positioning of your array
      4. Panels degrade, life expcentancy is about 20 years, then you have a roof full of toxic materials that need to be properly discarded
      5. Remember when the genius in Sack-0-Tomatoes and Washington foisted off those mercury fill light bulbs?

  4. I laugh every time I read about the liberal shenanigans destroying the state of california. We left three years ago and our only regret is we didn’t leave sooner. F

  5. JLSeagull says

    Forcing all new houses to have solar panels will raise the cost? No s**t
    Sherlock. The socialist leftist dim bulbs in the Sacramento Duma never passed second grade math. What you expect?

  6. Mr. Pickle says

    Our legislature is LAME, and interfering with stuff that costs MORE money to folks. On Solar, as well as STATE mandates for energy suppliers to buy RENEWABLE for power (PGE for example) has RAISED the costs to all of us dramatically for utility power. All politics. So what about low income folks, or folks with homes that cannot afford solar, they pay MORE which is hurting many. Solar cannot seem to sell itself on its own merits, and STILL offers rebates, refunds, tax credits, etc., and the more solar, the less of us to pick up the financial increases due to less income. C’mon! We have CHEAP fuel to power the plants, but CANNOT use it due to whacko greenie legislators and a governor who has NO clue…………. 1.) Throw out ALL taxpayer incentives to those that buy solar, then see the solar market TANK. 2.) Throw out the DEMS that voted this crap in. 3.) Tell your elected officials to STOP this nonsense NOW. Low income and State Aid folks cannot afford PGE now, let alone the higher fuel/gasoline taxes………. Thank a greenie for costing you more for all their pie in the sky ideas that are COSTING you. Again, every solar install drives up YOUR rates in utility bill because you cannot afford to buy it………….. BULLS***!

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