A nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California’s policies and politics

ECONOMY


While California tops the list of states with insane housing costs, it’s by no means a uniquely Golden State phenomenon. Building affordable housing—and particularly getting cities and other localities to permit its construction—is a tough endeavor that has bedeviled state policymakers across the country. So where should Californians look to solve a problem that feels so intractable? Affordable housing experts suggest legislators find inspiration in Massachusetts. For more than 40 years, the state’s signature affordable housing policy—Massachusetts “40B”—has served as a model for how states can motivate and sometimes bully reluctant localities into meeting their fair share of affordable housing.

At this point, it’s practically a California tradition. First, state judges find a loophole in California’s constitutional bulwark against new, higher taxes. Then conservative legislators and anti-tax activists rush in to patch the hole with a new ballot proposition. This week, the state Supreme Court made the first move in this familiar two-step by issuing a ruling that both anti-tax crusaders and proponents of more local investment say could make it much easier for city and county governments to raise new taxes. Now California conservatives are counter-punching.

The California dream isn’t dead. It just upped and moved to South Dakota. Less than half of people born in California in 1980 are making more money than their parents did as young adults. That’s the...

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