Real estate and the governor’s race: A look at California’s leading contenders and where they stand

It’s now down to a real estate impresario and lieutenant governor

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and businessman John Cox, with California State Capitol building (Flickr)
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and businessman John Cox, with California State Capitol building (Flickr)

The top two finishers of California’s election primary for governor both support building more housing and focusing on the state’s growing homeless population. But Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox differ on whether the state should entrust private or government forces to tackle those issues.

On Tuesday, Newsom, the state’s lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco, won 33.4 percent of the vote with over 1.3 million votes in his favor. Cox, a Republican businessman who owns a real estate investment firm, secured 26.2 percent of the vote, or 1.1 million votes.

Cox is the sole shareholder and president of Equity Property Management, which owns and manages over 20 apartment buildings in the Midwest.

Despite their different party affiliations, both candidates say they are adamantly in favor of building more housing and tackling the state’s burgeoning homeless population.

Newsom announced in March that he wants developers to build 3.5 million homes, or 500,000 per year, from the day he takes office through 2025. Cox articulated a goal to build 3 million homes over the next decade.

“There is no silver bullet to solve this crisis,” Newsom wrote in a blog post published in October. “We need to attack the problem on multiple fronts by generating more funding for affordable housing, implementing regulatory reform and creating new financial incentives for local jurisdictions that produce housing while penalizing those that fall short.”

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In order to achieve those goals, both candidates have supported easing regulations currently levied on developers.

Newsom said he supports removing some of the restrictions that make it hard to build middle-income homes, the Los Angeles Times reported. He’s also voiced support for more approval power at the regional government level (projects are currently approved at the local level), and said he want to reward cities and counties that approve housing near transit with financial incentives.

Cox, taking it a step further, would like to eliminate the California Environmental Quality Act, a comprehensive law that forces developers to draft the lengthy Environmental Impact Report for projects. In its place, he hopes to enact something less time-consuming.

Both candidates are also against the repeal of Costa-Hawkins Rental Control Housing Act of 1995, which bars rent control on any building constructed after 1995, or on single-family homes and condominiums. Affordable housing advocates in Los Angeles secured over 588,000 signatures to get the repeal on the ballot. Supporters, however, fear it could discourage development.

As for the growing homeless population, Cox believes the state should turn to nonprofits and private companies for help in finding solutions. Newsom, on the other hand, would prefer to entrust the state government.

The Lt. Governor wants to establish an Interagency Council on Homelessness to combat the issue, led by the State Homelessness Secretary, which would encourage cooperation among different levels of government, including criminal justice, healthcare, welfare and housing.

Newsom and Cox will face off in the Nov. 6 general election, alongside Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and Republican James Bradley.