Don’t let special interests exploit California’s housing crisis

By John Gamboa, Sacramento Bee

September 01, 2017 11:00 AM

People of all ages, colors and socioeconomic backgrounds are suffering from the low supply of new housing, which is leading to increased poverty and homelessness throughout California. 

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says California must add 100,000 units a year – more than double the current pace – to alleviate home prices and rents.

Pastor Yul Dorn, center, yells as he and others protest evictions at San Francisco City Hall in 2015 as African-American homeownership rates have dropped. Jeff Chiu Associated Press file

Pastor Yul Dorn, center, yells as he and others protest evictions at San Francisco City Hall in 2015 as African-American homeownership rates have dropped. Jeff Chiu Associated Press file

We applaud the Legislature’s leadership for putting together a broad package of legislation that includes dedicated funding for housing for low-income households. But effective reform must also include the California Environmental Quality Act that is abused to block market-rate and subsidized housing projects.

And to achieve real reform, it is critically important that all who have a seat at the table resist the immense pressure from special interests that hold clout in the Capitol and are willing to exploit this crisis.

Lawmakers must not undermine their efforts with political giveaways. For example, proposals that accelerate private housing projects are ineffective if they come with a prevailing wage mandate that increases construction costs. According to the new study by the California Homebuilding Foundation, a prevailing wage mandate on private residential construction could add as much as $84,000 to the cost of building a new home.

Legislators must also reject legislation that would make it more expensive to build, such as Assembly Bill 1701, which would increase litigation in the construction industry.

Communities of color and lower-income households devastated by the housing crash will be especially affected by a continuing housing shortage. Already, 3 million households spend more than 30 percent of income on rent, including 59 percent of African-American renters and 57 percent of Latino renters.

California’s homeownership rate ranks 49th and is at the lowest level since 1940. Only 43 percent of Latinos own homes, and only 35 percent of African-American households.

We are pleased that lawmakers are prioritizing solutions, but we also urge them to resist the pressure to reward one constituency at the expense of everyone else.

We must not make it harder to build when too many firefighters, teachers and middle-class families are already struggling to find and keep an affordable place to live without breaking the bank.

Source: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article170595777.html