We need drastically more housing in California. So many of the outcomes that don’t live up to our values — unprecedented homelessness, child poverty, and middling educational attainment, to name a few — are downstream of failing to build enough housing over the past decades.
Building more housing — 500,000 units per year, or roughly five times our current production rate — requires resolving many contested details. What percentage should be infill versus greenfield development? How should we weigh reducing construction costs versus paying living wages for construction workers? As we build, how do we protect people in precarious housing circumstances to not exacerbate the existing problems of homelessness and poverty?
California is big. Solutions that make sense in one region may not make sense in others. We should default to regional solutions.
Infill development is essential because sprawl leads to new climate challenges, including megafires. But we cannot be dogmatic about infill as the only solution.
We support efforts to densify all parts of the state, including single-family neighborhoods, while recognizing that folks bought into single-family neighborhoods expecting those zoning rules would remain in place. To the extent that local property values are hurt by upzoning — and we believe this is contested in the academic literature — we are open to rewarding homeowners and communities who lean into upzoning.
Local officials have incentives to oppose housing because their homeowner constituents are disproportionately politically active. Prop 13 also means their localities don't benefit financially from zoning residential, but do benefit from zoning retail. Updating the flow of taxes could help with incentives and reduce fees on new homes, which fund city services but make new construction more expensive, thus slowing down the rate of new development.
Increasing new home production should be a boon for builders. We need to work with the relevant unions to find a win-win arrangement to accelerate this building.