California’s cities and counties aren’t meeting state housing targets. Tensions are rising

Tensions rise between neighborhood groups and state over finding balance between increased building and traffic

Dec.December 26, 2019 12:14 PM
Governor Gavin Newsom (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)
Governor Gavin Newsom (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)

California is way behind its target to construct millions of new homes. That sets the stage for fights in the many towns and cities that will need to approve two-to-four times the number of homes they’ve been permitting in recent years to meet state targets.

California needs between 1.8 million and 3.5 million new homes by 2025 to knock down the rising housing costs and escalating rate of homelessness, according to state and private reports. But an analysis by the Los Angeles Daily News found that 97 percent of all cities and counties were behind in permitting new housing; almost two-thirds of local governments are less than 50 percent on track; and almost half are behind in homebuilding for very-low-income, low-income, moderate-income and above-moderate-income.

Based on 2018 data on the state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), the track record for building new housing for the poor in California is well below target: just 22 percent of the state’s jurisdictions are current with permitting for low-income housing, while 45 percent are on track for upper-income housing.

Los Angeles is a microcosm of these issues. Los Angeles County is supposed to permit 27,486 homes in unincorporated areas by 2021, but according to the data it has only permitted 4,866 homes, nearly all of them above designated for moderate-income housing. It received a “D-minus” grade from the news outlet. The City of Los Angeles, by contrast, is supposed to permit 82,002 homes by 2021. To date, the city has permitted over 80,000 homes, but more than 73,000 of them are for above-moderate income households. It received a “C-minus” grade from the Daily News.

Just one-sixth of California cities and counties earned an A or B grade based on the building permit numbers.

In August, California’s state housing authority said that Southern California will need to rezone for 1.3 million new homes in the next decade.

State law requires cities and counties to evaluate their zoning measures every eight years to account for population increases. The Southern California Association of Governments had originally proposed zoning for 430,000 new homes during the same time period. It’s now looking into how to divide the goal of 1.3 million new homes around the SoCal area.

John Burns, an Irvine, Calif.-based homebuilder told the Daily News that most cities and counties don’t permit enough housing to accommodate the additional workforce, resulting in high home prices, soaring rents and worsening traffic.

“Anti-growth stances seem to be the key to getting reelected in many cities,” said Burns. He said that Nimby-ism underscores the tension between local politicians and state leaders who established the ambitious housing targets.

In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened to withhold transportation funds from local jurisdictions that don’t do more to meet housing goals. [LosAngelesDailyNews]Pat Maio

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