Solving California’s housing crisis demands action. These steps will help

By Jared Martin, Special to CALmatters

The housing crisis gripping the Golden State threatens to permanently stymie economic growth and demands bold and innovative solutions.

During his State of the State speech earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom boldly proclaimed: “If we want a California for all, we have to build housing for all.”

The California Association of Realtors and its more than 200,000 members who advocate on behalf of home buyers and sellers and are dedicated to the preservation of private property rights couldn’t agree more.

California’s 4.2 percent unemployment rate is at a 10-year low. Wages are accelerating at their fastest pace in nearly a decade. But prospective home buyers continue to see sticker shock, with median prices still hovering in the $530,000 range.

The affordability problem must be addressed and fast if California is to remain a place where middle class people can live.

Gov. Newsom’s call to action is bearing fruit. Lawmakers have advanced bills designed to put a significant dent into the housing crisis. The California Association of Realtors is championing the following bipartisan measures:

  • Senate Bill 50, by Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat. It’s a bold plan to significantly boost housing and apartment development in and around major transit hubs and employers. The legislation provides developers with a density bonus and other incentives or concessions. This bill may also appeal to millennials, who often choose to live and work in dense, diverse urban villages where transportation and amenities are nearby.
  • Assembly Bill 1568, by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat. It would hold local governments accountable by withholding gas tax revenue if counties do not meet home building benchmarks verified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
  • AB 1074 by Assemblyman Tyler Diep, an Orange County Republican, would allow bonds to provide loans to homeowners to construct accessory dwelling units will help to address California’s dire need for additional supply.
  • AB 1590 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, a Baldwin Park Democrat, would create a first-time home buyer’s tax credit.  
  • SB 509, by Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Cañada-Flintridge. It would establish a housing crisis awareness program through the issuance of specialty license plates by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The license plate would generate revenue for affordable housing programs throughout the state.

What’s essential to all of these efforts is a resource to help focus the state’s efforts to solve the housing supply crisis.

AB 1020, authored by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, a Thousand Oaks Democrat, would  do just that by establishing a cabinet-level secretary of housing to oversee all housing-related initiatives and activities throughout California.

A new Housing Agency would help to focus the state’s efforts, while the Secretary of Housing would provide the Governor with a resource to oversee and to interact with professional entities, both governmental and non-governmental, that play a role in the housing market.

Last fall, California voters wisely rejected an initiative to expand of rent control. The solution to high rents is not more rent control. It’s building more supply.

The California Association of Realtors will work with the governor and legislature to ensure that all Californians can realize the American Dream of homeownership.

Jared Martin is president of the California Association of Realtors, [email protected]. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

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