California’s famously idealistic governor has set his eyes (for once) on an eminently achievable and critically important goal: Beating back the state’s onerous land use regulations so as to slow the growth of housing prices in the state’s rapidly-growing metropolitan core. The San Francisco Business Times reports:
Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed sweeping statewide legislation that would allow new market-rate projects with onsite affordable housing to be approved “as of right,” in potentially California’s most significant housing policy change in years.The proposal has big ramifications for the Bay Area, where many cities and well-organized residents’ groups have long fought residential development. […]No new funding for affordable housing is proposed. But Brown is taking a significant step to reduce the approvals process for new projects, despite previously saying that potential change was limited.
If Brown’s plan gets through, it may end up being one of the most important achievements of his tenure. Regulations limiting the housing stock—often supported by an unusual coalition of wealthy NIMBYs and anti-development leftists—drive up inequality (by propping up the real estate values of the wealthy) and slow economic growth (by making it more difficult for people to move when they get new job opportunities). The San Francisco Bay Area, which has created more than half a million jobs since 2011 but added less than 100 thousand housing units, is ground zero for what is increasingly a national crisis. (San Francisco itself has started resorting to absurd measures—like making it virtually impossible to evict the city’s underpaid teachers—to try to contain the damage from its skyrocketing rents).Unlike California’s headline-grabbing liberal initiatives of the last several years (‘Yes Means Yes’ sex regulations, a job-killing $15 minimum wage, a high-speed rail boondoggle) Brown’s zoning bill represents a real, considered answer to one of the state’s most pressing problems, rather than identity politics hand-waving or a pie-in-the-sky left-wing experiment. Here’s hoping that the bill makes it through the legislature, and that, on housing policy, state leaders across the country take a cue from Governor Moonbeam.