Nobody at Friday’s signing ceremony said Gov. Jerry Brown has solved California’s housing affordability crisis by signing a package of 15 bills intended to drive costs down.
The theme instead was: It’s a start.
“Today, you can be sure, we got 15 good bills. Yes, they’re good. They move the ball forward,” Brown said at a signing ceremony in San Francisco Friday, which was held at the newly-built Hunters View affordable housing development. “Have they ended the need for further legislation? Unfortunately not.”
Two measures that faced steep battles in the Legislature will raise money for affordable housing projects. One will place a $4 billion housing bond on the November 2018 ballot, while another will bring in a couple hundred million dollars a year through a document fee on certain real estate transactions.
The rest of the bills make it harder for cities and counties to evade state housing mandates and attempt to streamline the development process for projects that meet zoning, prevailing wage and other requirements.
The measures passed the Legislature with largely Democratic support. Many Republicans criticized the proposals as insufficient, suggesting California cannot solve the housing affordability crisis with government spending and that the “reforms” merely tinker around the edges rather than truly tackle the barriers faced by housing developers.
Many state and local elected officials who spoke at the signing ceremony decried the housing affordability crisis plaguing California.
“We have spent 50 years in this state digging ourselves into a deep hole by making it harder and harder to build housing; by coming up with every conceivable excuse in the book why we don’t need housing; by putting obstacle after obstacle in the way of new housing,” said Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco). “And we are paying the price today.”
That and similar comments prompted the governor to add the perspective of a long-time California politician.
“Look, all those rules were passed by people like you!” Brown said, pointing to state laws and city ordinances on building requirements like energy efficiency and insulation that have contributed to California's high construction costs.
“It’s all good!” Brown went on. “But as I always say, too many goods create a bad. So now you’re trying to clean up some of the bad. But it is a lot of good too. So that’s the paradox.”
Several big-city mayors urged the governor and lawmakers not to rest on their laurels and declare their housing work done.
“When you come back to Sacramento for your next legislative season, please do not say that last season was the season of housing, and this year we will move on to something else,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “We have more work to do!”
She was followed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who immediately named three key issues he'd like to see addressed next year: the return of tax-increment financing, a key funding mechanism that was used in the past to fund affordable housing projects but was eliminated during the recession; new protections for renters; and reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) designed to address its abuse to slow development projects.
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