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Brown's Housing Proposal Hits Roadblock

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

A house on this street in a historically struggling neighborhood in West Oakland sold for nearly $425,000 in Fall 2014, epitomizing the squeeze on middle-class families in California's housing market.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Jerry Brown is having a tough month at the state Capitol so far. After setbacks to his efforts to fight climate change and regionalize California’s energy grid, now his housing affordability proposal is losing steam.

Brown is pushing to speed up the local government approval process for multi-family, urban, infill developments. He argues that’s the best way to tackle California’s soaring housing costs – and he's backed by business groups, realtors and the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But he’s facing pushback from cities and counties, labor and environmental groups, advocates for renters, and that other valuable constituency – Democratic state lawmakers.

“Some of the provisions, they think, might speed up housing projects to an extent that they might overlook a lot of the environmental concerns, and a lot of the worker protection concerns as well,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said of his caucus members' concerns last week.

Now, a coalition of labor and environmental groups negotiating with the governor says it’s walking away.

“After several meetings without an agreement on a variety of requested changes, we believe it is time to focus on real affordable housing solutions that don't  directly undermine local voices and place communities and our environment at risk,“ the coalition said in a statement it released Monday. instead of deregulating market rate housing, we need a state policy that restores full funding for affordable housing and local policies that support development of housing options that are accessible and affordable for the majority of Californians."

“We find it odd that they are walking away from talks when the conversation is just beginning,“ responded Brown's deputy press secretary, Deb Hoffman, in a statement of her own. “The governor has been very clear that we need to constrain development costs, improve the pace of housing production and that the $400 million in the budget is contingent upon the passage of a ’by right’ approval process for affordable housing.“

 There’s still no formal proposal from the governor yet – and the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on August 31st.

The setback comes as some of Brown’s other legislative priorities, like climate change and transportation funding, also face uncertain futures – at least this month.

This story was updated to add some of the groups that support the governor's proposal.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio