California lawmakers seem to think our housing crisis can wait. It can’t

By Jared Martin, Special to CALmatters

California’s lawmakers continue to ignore the root cause of the housing crisis, one of the most serious threats to our state’s future.

The Assembly last week approved a rent cap, sending the measure to the Senate for its consideration. While this would provide short-term relief for tenants, the legislation would do nothing to address what’s increasing rents in the first place: the lack of housing supply.

On behalf of the California Association of Realtors and its 200,000 members, I am disappointed in the lack of focus on increasing the housing supply.

Every day we delay addressing the root cause of the crisis–the shortage of homes–the more we deny hard working Californians the quality of life they deserve.

In this legislative session, our state’s leaders have spoken with great passion about solving the housing crisis. They say this is the most critical issue facing California. They question how our state’s future will look if we don’t act now. Yet lawmakers haven’t been willing to take the tough votes to move forward meaningful policy that advances the solution: supply.

It’s likely our state will go yet another year without any significant housing production reforms. That will effectively put the California Dream in peril for millions.

What’s worse, real solutions are on the table.

Senate Bill 50 by Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, represents real potential to address the housing crisis. We were proud to co-sponsor SB 50 because it would have remade California’s zoning laws to increase the housing and apartment development around major transit hubs and job centers.

At the same time, SB 50 would have required a certain portion of affordable units, ensuring the new housing would help all Californians.

But the Senate decided to hold the bill until 2020.

During this time, legislators prioritized policies like a rent cap bill, in the form of Assembly Bill 1482 by Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat. That bill would put a Band-Aid on the housing supply crisis.

To be clear, we still came to the table on that legislation to balance protections for tenants and landlords. And that’s the key: we came to the table. California’s leaders must do the same because our future depends on it.

We’re at a tipping point.

If we decide to continue on the same path, we’re choosing a future that denies our kids the housing opportunities we’ve had. We’re choosing a future that forces the next generation to make the difficult decision of staying in California with a poorer quality of life or moving out of state and away from family to afford a decent place to call home.

Many families face those difficult choices. And because of decisions made here in Sacramento, more families across our state will be burdened by the same gut-wrenching conversations.

Californians deserve better. They deserve a place to call home without worrying they may not be able to put food on the table for their kids. They deserve solutions to the housing crisis. They deserve leaders willing to take tough votes even if it puts their political future at risk.

We’re glad to have a governor who realizes the true severity of our housing shortage and agrees that increasing the housing supply is the best solution.

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed our association last month with a simple message: we don’t have enough supply to meet the demand. Until our lawmakers join the governor in prioritizing supply, California’s housing future will hang in the balance.

The California Association of Realtors remains committed to protecting the opportunity for all Californians to continue calling the Golden State home. We urge lawmakers to take bold action to solve this manmade crisis. We can’t afford to wait.

Jared Martin is president of the California Association of Realtors, [email protected] He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.  To read his previous CALmatters commentary, please click here.

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