California Fails Again, Housing Crisis Continues

The California state legislature introduced three aggressive measures to battle the state’s raging housing crisis. All three measures have failed or been whittled down to virtually nothing. The homeless rate is still soaring, traffic unbearable and people leaving in droves.

California is quickly becoming an ideal case study of how not to react to a crisis. As Progressives look for leadership that will be able to handle a century on unprecedented challenges, hopefully, no one looks over to the sunshine state.

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The first bill was Senate Bill 50, introduced by Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener from San Francisco.

The bill would have relaxed housing construction standards allowing developers to build multifamily units on single parcels and end some size restrictions dictated by local governments. The bill would have forced local governments to be more responsive to construction proponents as well.

Overall, the bill hoped to clear some of California’s red tape so the private sector could start making headway on the housing shortage. It wasn’t a perfect bill, and there were fears of aiding gentrification, but it was an important steppingstone to a housing tranquility. The state estimates that the housing market is 2 million units short.

The bill was shelved in the Appropriations Committee by State Senator Anthony J. Portantino, a Democrat who represents the wealthy city of La Cañada Flintridge. He argued that the bill did too much to curtail local government, and rich suburbs like Palo Alto and Glendale were quick to agree.

Californians, on the other hand, support the ideas in SB 50 (62 percent approve, 30 percent disapprove according to the Public Policy Institute of California).

But, according to Portantino, the bill won’t come up again until early 2020. Wiener is trying to change that.

With wealthy homeowners not willing to sacrifice a cent of property value, the future looks bleak.

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The two other bills came out of California’s assembly — Assembly Bill 1482 from San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu and a companion measure Assembly Bill 1481 from Alameda Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

Bill 1482 would have capped rent increases at five percent (plus inflation) a year, and 1481 would have forced landlords to give reason before evicting a tenant.

Naturally, the two laws have encountered resistance, but not from a committee chair bent on burying the legislation. Instead, Chiu and Bonta have tried working with opponents to come up with an agreeable compromise.

First, Chiu agreed the measures would end in 2030.

Then, he agreed to exempt apartments built in the last 10 years.

Then, he agreed to set the cap at seven percent (plus inflation).

And then, right before the deadline to bring the bill up for a vote, he agreed the rent cap would expire in three years. The bill passed, and now faces the same scrutiny in the Senate.

Bonta’s companion bill failed to make it before the deadline, despite compromises mirroring Chiu’s. And now Chiu admits the final measure will not be nearly enough to give renters relief.

Two special interests spearheaded the resistance — The California Apartment Assn. and the California Assn. of Realtors. They claimed the bills would have stifled housing development, and, unfortunately for progressive Democrats, their immense lobbying efforts are impossible to ignore.

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None of this is new for California.

The California Apartment Assn. and the California Assn. of Realtors defeated a ballot measure that would have expanded rent control. And Palo Alto online estimates that there have been 200 housing bills introduced into California’s well-paid legislature this year with little hope of real relief.

What is new is the urgency of fixing the problem.

The latest survey from the LA Homeless Services Authority estimate the homeless population has increased 12 percent in the county. The trash and rodent infestations have bloomed to incredible heights. Last October, the city faced a minor Typhus outbreak, and with summer coming everyone who lives and works in the city has a far-ranging bouquet of scents to enjoy.

California’s government is failing, but it’s not a failure of democracy, it’s a failure of single party rule. Too many Californians won’t listen to conservatives, and grassroots progressives coming up on the left are successfully suppressed.

It’s also not a problem of ideology.

Whether it’s a conservative bill like SB 50, that would have cut red tape to spur private sector construction, or progressive housing regulations like Assembly Bills 1482 and 1481, all solutions are equally repugnant to Californians hellbent on protecting their enormous property values.

Money has no ideological leaning here.

The few measures the state has passed, like the Measure H sales tax, are too little and payed for by the Californians struggling to stay off the streets themselves.

Meanwhile, the state legislators relegate unpopular measures directly to the voters, where special interests can spend unlimited amounts of money to ensure the vote goes their way.

Add in the blindly uniting force of a president trolling us from across the coast, and Democrats in California are so safe they never seem to have to solve any problems, and the crisis continues unabated by a confluence of political problems.

The perfect case study of how not to solve a crisis.