New California housing policies: tough to do and urgently needed

Marty Kovacs is the 2017 Chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. Courtesy photo.

California’s housing crisis has an impact on all residents and undermines our state’s economy. But revising housing policies and encouraging construction of tens of thousands of new homes will require a long-term, consistent campaign.

“Revising housing policy is tough,” said Ben Metcalf, director of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

He was keynote speaker at the recent “Housing Our Workers” forum presented by the Southland Regional Association of Realtors, the Valley Economic Alliance, the National Association of Realtors, and BizFed Institute.

“It’s up to you guys,” he told an audience of 200 that included representatives of all levels of government, labor groups, housing and homeless advocates, prospective homebuyers, as well as financial institutions and developers large and small.

“Lawmakers need to hear from you again and again,” he said. “Keep that drumbeat going so that people see the impact of the housing shortage.”

Ben Metcalf, director of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Courtesy photo.

Metcalf noted that the state recently released a draft of “California’s Housing Future: Challenges and Opportunities,” its first statewide housing assessment report since 2000. Lawmakers and state regulators are looking for input and suggestions on how to alleviate what Metcalf called an ”unsustainably low” level of home construction statewide.

During the 1970s and ’80s, California added 210,000 new homes each year. Today, that number has dropped to a mere 80,000 new homes despite demand for at least 150,000 additional homes annually.

Not only are there not enough homes; they’re not in the right places.

“The homes that are brought to market are disproportionately located farther away from jobs,” Metcalf said, which adds to worker stress, lost income, and a deteriorating quality of life.

“We’re seeing patterns emerging of inequality that are particularly unsettling,” Metcalf noted. “Young people are leaving the state … and the likelihood is rising that the younger generation will not do as well or better than their parents.”

Metcalf said there are a multitude of reasons why the housing shortage has appeared and there are many steps that can be taken to alleviate it.

Those steps include new legislation allowing the conversion of garages into income-generating housing units, sweeping new rules to reduce fees on new construction, seeking ways to help local jurisdictions foster development, and creating ongoing funding sources for building new units to help get more people into homes of their own.

“We need to be realistic about where things stand,” he said, “but we also need to step forward and make change happen.”

Marty Kovacs is the 2017 Chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the 9,600-member Southland Regional Association of Realtors. David Walker, of Walker Associates, co-authors articles for SRAR. The column represents SRAR’s views and not necessarily those of The Signal. The column contains general information about the real estate market and is not intended to replace advice from your Realtor or other realty related professionals.


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