VIDEO: California needs another “Year of Housing” solutions

580 200 John Guenther

Here's where they agree: California faces a worsening housing crisis and the state took some steps last year, but much more needs to be done. Agreeing on those next steps is the hard part.

“Before you know it, you have 50 different people, each with 50 different solutions who will fight to the death to oppose the other 49,” said Ben Metcalf, director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

At the 2017 California Economic Summit, a wide range of public, private and civic sector leaders were in the room to create a way forward to solve California's biggest challenges, like that growing affordability crisis. Two of those people at the Summit are featured in our latest video in a series on those challenges, what's happening to solve them, and what's next.

People in the room included those outside of government and working to create change, like Laura Clark, executive director of YIMBY Action, a housing nonprofit group advocating for more home construction in California cities.

“We have booming economies and, instead of being a great thing that we have jobs and opportunity, they have crippled whole regions of California because people have been unwilling to build apartment buildings so that people can come and join those communities,” said Clark.

The group seeks to streamline the time it takes to build housing projects, both affordable and market-rate, which can be held up by lengthy approval processes and locals seeking to prevent new housing nearby.

Also at the Summit were California leaders in the public sector working to affect change in the housing picture, like Metcalf. The package of housing bills passed in 2017 represented a step in the right direction, said Metcalf, and shows how middle ground can be found at places like the Summit, co-organized by California Forward and the California Stewardship Network.

More bills and ballot measures are on tap for 2018 and part of the work ahead, added Metcalf, is working with local jurisdictions to make sure they're building more and meeting state-mandated goals.

“There's a funding piece that has to go to the voters next November, SB3 — three-four billion dollar bonds,” said Metcalf. “There are a lot of operational questions related to the other items.”

Clark agreed that the package was a good first step, but more is needed to ensure that denser housing near transit is built so that people in low-income and middle-income families can enter housing markets where there are jobs close by and shorter commutes.

“So while it's not a snap your fingers kind of a solution, we need to take down those barriers,” said Clark. “We need to engage in politics in order to change those laws and make it easier to build housing.”

The 2018 California Economic Summit will take place in Sonoma County this fall and will focus on creating more resiliency in communities across the state, including regions facing disasters and economic problems making challenges like housing affordability even worse. 

California's housing crisis will also on the menu this week, when candidates for California's governorship will talk housing affordability at a forum that will be streamed live via Facebook on Thursday January 25.

The forum will accept questions from audience members and is being presented by The Two Hundred and Capital Direct Funding.


John Guenther

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