To address California’s affordable housing shortage, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed 15 cosmetic bills that will do little if anything to provide a permanent solution. As long as California’s population continues ever-upward, low-cost houses and rental units can’t be constructed fast enough to keep up.
California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office’s research found that for decades, the state has failed to build enough units to meet demand, particularly in popular coastal cities such as San Francisco. California needs to build 100,000 additional affordable units annually just to meet the demand.
Low-income renters are particularly hard hit. In the densely populated and already over-priced Bay Area, rents in San Jose, Oakland and San Jose showed year-over-year increases. According to ApartmentList.com, in San Jose, the median cost of rents rose 2.5 percent year-over-year to $2,050 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,570 for a two-bedroom unit. In Oakland, rents rose a whopping 5.4 percent from a year earlier to $1,780 for one-bedroom and $2,240 for two-bedrooms, while San Francisco apartments increased 1.6 percent to $2,450 for a one-bedroom and $3,080 for two-bedrooms.
In its statement, the Sacramento-based Western Center on Law and Poverty said: “Rent increases of this frequency and magnitude are difficult for most working families to absorb, but they’re an absolute disaster for low-income households.” The advocacy organization predicted dire consequences from exorbitantly high rents: homelessness, poverty, and inability to pay for basic medical care.
Among the 15 bills Brown approved, all of which will take effect January 1, 2018, are San Francisco Democrat Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 35 which allows developers to bypass the review process that includes public hearings, environmental impact studies and to accelerate construction. Senate Bill 166, Berkeley Democrat Nancy Skinner’s legislation, seeks to insure that cities and counties have “no net loss” of construction area.
Skeptics doubt that the laws will bring meaningful change. The Associated Press reported that the contrast in home and rental prices between California and the rest of the nation is “stark.” Median home prices are nearly double the national average, and rents are 50 percent higher.
For Californians, the bills mean that they’ll cope with more major development inconveniences, more traffic delays, and more sprawl, but without Sacramento’s willingness to address what’s created the housing shortage: too many people moving into the state, lured in part by its willingness to accept and protect unlimited numbers of illegal immigrants.