Cities not at fault for affordable housing gap – Orange County Register

As Gov. Brown closes in on the final year of his term in office, one of his stated goals is to mitigate the affordable housing crisis across the state. Even now, as the Senate and Assembly sessions come to an end with Sept. 15 as the last day for each house to pass bills, plans are in the works to present the governor with a package of legislative options for his signature.

Among the proposals are Senate Bill 2 and 3, which provide a reservoir of state dollars as permanent funding source solutions. SB2 proposes nearly $250 million a year in new funding for low income housing development through real estate document transaction fees. SB3 would create a $3 billion bond to spend on low income housing for voters to consider on the 2018 statewide ballot.

One of the most common rejoinders from both sides of the aisle on additional state spending to provide affordable housing, is that cities are not pulling their weight when it comes to authorizing developments. In fact, a third legislative “fix” — SB35 — proposes a new by-right process, which creates additional reporting requirements for cities. By-right zoning allows for the streamlined development of projects, which comply with the zoning standards, to receive local approval without a discretionary review process.

Unfortunately, punitive measures to force municipalities into action on affordable housing misses the mark on the real issue facing communities … the biggest barrier to affordable housing for cities is financing.

In Orange County, affordable housing is a particularly acute problem. According to the California Association of Realtors, the county is now the most unaffordable housing market in Southern California. Only 21 percent of households can afford a typical house payment on the median price of a single-family home. As multi-family developments become the only available option for residents, the necessity of delivering affordable units to the market is critical.

However, demand is far exceeding supply for multi-family residencies in the region. According to demographic projections, Orange County is facing a workforce housing shortage of between 50,000 and 62,000 units in the coming years. In order to maintain the economic vibrancy of the county, the talented workforce that businesses depend on must have far more affordable housing options to retain individuals locally.

It is not for a lack of effort that cities have been unable to effectively deliver more affordable housing to the…

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