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Jerry Brown’s housing hypocrisy

August 29, 2016

OpEd By JOEL KOTKIN and WENDELL COX : ocregister – excerpt

Jerry Brown worrying about the California housing crisis is akin to the French policeman played by Claude Rains in “Casablanca” being “shocked, shocked” about gambling at the bar where he himself collects his winnings.

Brown has long been at the forefront on drafting and enforcing regulations that make building housing both difficult and very expensive. And now he has pushed new legislation, which seems certain to be passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, that makes it worse by imposing even more stringent regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, mandating a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030.

The press and activists may cheer the new bill, which will require massively expensive and intrusive measures likely to further raise housing costs. A 2012 study by the California Council on Science and Technology found that, given existing and potentially feasible technology, cutting back carbon emissions by 60 percent, roughly comparable with the new legal mandate, would require that “all buildings … either have to be demolished, retrofitted or built new to very high efficiency standards.” Needless to say, this won’t do much for housing affordability…

Some have seen Brown’s recent suggestions to loosen up some regulations and add to housing subsidies as positive, although they have little chance of making it through Sacramento due to environmental, labor and municipal opposition.

But even if it is passed, Brown’s proposal would hardly affect housing supply or prices, in large part, because the governor’s people-last radical environmental theology rules out what Zillow economists identify as the one of “tried-and-true” means of reducing housing costs: single-family tract housing developments on the periphery (where the city meets the countryside). In contrast, Brown’s housing proposal focused on larger, multifamily developments in urban core areas

Brown and the middle class

Brown’s housing policies offer little to the middle class. Densification, for example, has no record of making housing affordable much of anywhere. It is also not what most people want, which is one reason that middle-class families, particularly young families, continue to move out of the state, according to an analysis of 2014 Internal Revenue Service numbers.

California millennials already have among the lowest rates of homeownership in the country, with many staying with their parents after their mid-twenties. Brown’s proposal would have at least produced small units, although such units are hopelessly unfit to attract young families.

The biggest victims: The poor, the working class and the new generation

Brown’s land-use regulation policies – including those tied to greenhouse gas emissions – have been disastrous, especially for low-income households. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California has by far the highest poverty rate in the nation of any state when adjusted for housing costs. With a rate 50 percent above that of Mississippi, for low-income households, California is regulating itself into something of a third-world country, with large portions of the population stuck in permanent poverty… (more)



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