Opinion

Newsom’s chance: A State of the State that targets housing

Homes under construction in Riverside. (Photo: Orange Grove, via Shutterstock)

The California Senate had just voted to defeat the state’s highest profile housing bill, Senate Bill (SB) 50, on January 30 when Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins quickly rose to address her members.

“The status quo cannot stand,” she told the chamber.

We at the California Association of Realtors® agree as well. That’s why as CAR president, I join more than 200,000 real estate professionals throughout the state in calling for Gov. Gavin Newsom to lead a dramatic change in California’s housing policy before the end of this legislative session.

Indeed, the status quo cannot stand.

We need a bold housing production bill in 2020 – but we can’t do that without strong leadership from the governor.

The governor’s State of the State address is his opportunity to call for all Californians to join him in treating our housing shortage aggressively and to get serious about increasing housing supply. As Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has said, it’s time to stop “nibbling around the edges.”California must also tackle the burdensome permitting process that stifles new housing development and increases costs.

We need a bold housing production bill in 2020 – but we can’t do that without strong leadership from the governor. To achieve his vision of a “California for All,” we need his voice to join ours and others from all walks of life who call for prioritizing supply solutions to address our severe housing shortage. The State of the State provides a timely platform to call upon our state’s legislative leaders and members to rally together to push past the current challenges to advance a bold, progressive housing agenda that embraces policies that increase the housing supply.

What do we mean by supply solutions? Quite simply: zoning, permitting and fee certainty.

While SB 50 was defeated, it provided a strong foundation for similar legislation which addresses the relationship between zoning and supply. The ultimate goal of Sen. Wiener’s housing bill was to increase housing stock near transit and major employment hubs. It’s a common-sense solution to our housing crisis to build homes near transit and jobs so we can create more livable communities and cut down on commute times that are getting longer by the day.

In the Bay Area, SB 50 would have quadrupled potential housing units and increased potential affordable housing units by 500 percent. That’s the kind of bold zoning reform we need, and we hope the governor will put his support behind a similar bill this year.

This is made all the more urgent when considering that for seven years straight, more people have left the Golden State than moved here.

California must also tackle the burdensome permitting process that stifles new housing development and increases costs. This begins with reducing high impact fees that can range between 6 percent to 18 percent of a home’s sales price. Last year, UC Berkeley released a study commissioned by the Legislature that found these fees vary widely and lack transparency. This year, we should take the next step by fixing the state’s broken fee system and making it easier to build new homes.

Lastly, all of the reforms in the world won’t do much unless we back them up with accountability. One of the primary drivers of the housing crisis is local governments that refuse to build the housing we need. We must do everything we can to stop unreasonable “not-in-my-backyard” laws that only exacerbate the crisis we’re in. Gov. Newsom has already taken a lead role by taking cities to court when they fail to approve reasonable and responsible housing developments.

The housing shortage will only worsen if we don’t act this year to increase the housing supply. Poll after poll shows housing costs continue to be Californians’ No. 1 concern. The only way to reverse soaring home prices is by significantly increasing housing supply for both renters and homebuyers.

This is made all the more urgent when considering that for seven years straight, more people have left the Golden State than moved here. Indeed, a bright future for our kids and grandkids relies on addressing our housing shortage.

That work begins with Gov. Newsom’s State of the State address. It’s the right time and forum to reset, push beyond the status quo, and make 2020 the year of housing supply in California. REALTORS® stand ready to support the administration and legislative leaders in passing a bold housing supply agenda. Our state’s future prosperity demands it. Let’s get to work, together, for all Californians.

Editor’s Note: 
Jeanne Radsick, a Bakersfield Realtor®, is president of the California Association of Realtors®.


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