Unless you bought a house in 2006, last decade's housing collapse seems like a long time ago. The market has recovered nicely and houses are selling at a brisk rate. Unfortunately that means there are a lot of Californians who cannot afford to live where they work.
One person in Silicon Valley has made it his mission to do something about it. With financial backing from Silicon Valley tech executives, Brian Hanlon is starting a new political and housing advocacy venture in Sacramento called California YIMBY – or “Yes in My Back Yard,” a riff on the “not-in-my-backyard” phrase that characterizes neighborhood opposition to development projects.
Too many cities and counties, he says, aren’t complying with state housing law that says it’s illegal to deny or scale back affordable housing projects that meet local zoning designations and other land-use rules.
It’s an emerging political movement demanding more housing construction across California, affordable or not. Pro-growth advocacy groups have formed groups from Santa Monica to San Francisco to Sacramento.
“We want more housing, and all types of housing. So we advocate for everything from transitional homeless shelters ... to tall, luxury condos and everything in between,” Hanlon said in a Sacramento Bee article. “We are in a dire housing shortage and we’re not going to get ourselves out of that shortage if we nit-pick every project to death.”
As the state has added more than 2 million jobs since 2011, it has fallen far short of building the housing it needs to keep pace with the booming economy and rising population. On average, the state has seen an influx of 80,000 new homes per year over the past decade, when 180,000 are needed annually, according to state officials. To keep up with growing population, California needs an estimated 1.8 million new housing units by 2025, according to state projections.
Housing opponents are generally much louder than advocates are. They grab the attention of officials who are concerned about being re-elected. Many of them are retired (who have, themselves, recently moved in to a community) and have time to attending public hearing to voice their opposition.
The planned revitalization of Fisherman's Wharf in Channel Islands Harbor is a perfect example. There is a large contingency of beach and harbor dwellers who oppose the residential component of the project. The proposal has been slashed over the years from somewhere around 800 apartments to less than 400 luxury units. The opposition is still very vocal.
As a society, we need to figure out how to accommodate all of our residents, not just the ones who can afford to live at the beach. We need to locate people close to their places of employment to reduce gridlock on our freeways and surface streets.