Regions-up Housing Agenda Identifies Evidence-Based Opportunities to Ease State’s Housing Crisis

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Released today by California Forward (CA FWD) with support from Wells Fargo, “Regions Build Together – A Housing Agenda for All California,” provides a regions-up housing agenda consisting of 14 practical actions that can relieve the state’s persistent housing crisis.

“For the state to fulfill its promise as a place of opportunity for all, the state along with a broad coalition of regional and philanthropic stakeholders must work together to increase the housing supply so that all residents can live affordably near their jobs,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of CA FWD. “Regions Build Together provides a comprehensive regions-up agenda bringing economic, policy and political components together to address the state’s urgent need to create the housing our residents need.”

Even after a decade of robust economic growth, California has failed to make substantive progress on addressing the housing needs of its population. The California Dream Index shows the number of Californians paying less than 30% of their income on rent – the standard threshold for affordability – has stagnated. Between 2010-2019, home ownership rates have actually declined by 4.5%.

Wells Fargo sponsored the development of this report, speaking both to the commitment of the organization and the important thought-leadership role philanthropy can play in helping address the state’s housing needs. In 2019, Wells Fargo announced a commitment of $1 billion in philanthropy through 2025 to confront the U.S. housing affordability crisis.

“Having a safe and affordable place to call home is essential to help lay the foundation for wellness, dignity, and economic opportunity, yet far too many people in California are struggling financially and facing housing instability,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy with Wells Fargo. “This report brings to light the vital need in California for innovative housing affordability solutions that address racial equity and together can build a more inclusive, sustainable future where everyone can have a quality and affordable place to call home.”

The report looks at the state through nine regional housing markets. It identifies 14 actions across six areas consisting of:

  • financing and funding;
  • coordination, collaboration and regional alignment;
  • land and labor dynamics;
  • innovative transformation and community change;
  • regulatory process and fees;
  • and, accommodating diversity and mitigating disincentives.

“A state perspective of the housing crisis doesn’t provide an accurate view of where we are today,” said Paul Granillo, President and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, one of the regional partners who contributed to the report. “By looking at local and regional housing trends, barriers and efforts, along with a broader statewide perspective, we’re able to get a fuller picture of the opportunities that can be replicated or scaled up at a state level.”

Three key actions from the report will be featured in CA FWD’s Building Equitable Economies: Regions Build Together webinar today at 11 a.m. and include:

  • Strategically re-envisioning financing solutions and the network of community investment actors: Better financing options will aid both market rate and below market rate housing developers in their work. Lift to Rise, a nonprofit working in Riverside County is pursuing this key action using a Capitol Absorption Framework model to coordinate with government, private and nonprofit developers, banks and other key stakeholders in systems-level work that makes the community investment network visible to all participants.
  • Connecting housing with transportation in ways that maximize affordability and sustainability while minimizing displacement risks: Particularly in high density areas, strategies to increase housing affordability need to be transit-centered, given the already overwhelming burden of traffic congestion on the health and well-being of many of the state’s residents. Green Means Go, an initiative of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), makes the case that GHG emissions should be predicated on infill development
  • Enabling localities to better achieve housing goals by incentivizing increases both in the number of homes allowed and by promoting innovative housing options: As an example, increasing the below market rate housing stock involves finding ways to increase the number of units per acre, especially for rental housing. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are secondary detached housing units on a single-family lot, have been legalized across California following state legislative initiatives and offer another transformative option. Adding ADUs in a community is an effective way to increase units in high opportunity neighborhoods with a minimum of planning and development costs.

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation developed the regional chapters of the report detailing the current state of affordability, unique challenges, and potential solutions to develop the regions-up housing agenda. The detailed chapters covering the nine regional housing markets include the Bay Area; Central Coast; Central Valley; Greater Los Angeles; Imperial and San Diego; Inland Empire; Northern California; Orange; and, Sacramento.


John Guenther

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