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Fact or Fiction? A Look At Claims About SB 50, One Of California’s Most Controversial Housing Bills

January 22, 2020

By Chris Nichols : polifact – excerpt

California’s Senate Bill 50 would allow cities to boost housing density near transit and job centers.

When one of the most contested California housing bills in years resurfaced at the state Capitol this month, so did the heated, often exaggerated claims about how it would ease the state’s affordable housing crisis — or possibly make it worse.

Senate Bill 50, authored by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, would require cities and counties to allow higher-density housing near job and transit centers. Most new units would be priced at the market rate, but the bill requires up to a quarter to be affordable…

Housing experts don’t dispute the idea that SB 50 would lead to greater supply. They say high-paying jobs are increasingly concentrated in the state’s urban cores near mass transit. And there’s strong demand for more housing in those areas from upper-income earners.

But the experts say the prediction about prices dropping for the middle class is oversimplified and not likely to materialize, unless many other conditions are met

If more moderately priced housing is built, prices could decrease somewhat as owners vacate their older apartments, providing more affordable units for those who earn less.

He said achieving an overall drop in prices also assumes California’s population stays constant. Growth has slowed in the state, but not completely…

In a follow-up interview last week, Wiener acknowledged SB 50 would not provide “an overnight change.” He said, however, that “increasing the supply of market rate housing, over time, will reduce costs.”…

In the end, the experts agreed that under certain scenarios, the growth in housing prices could start to stabilize with more market-rate supply. But that’s not the same thing as bringing those prices down…

“It’s still a gentrification machine. It still favors new luxury units,” wrote Livable California, another group opposed to SB 50, in a list of talking points it distributed this month…

“It is completely inaccurate to say [smaller counties] have been excluded from the bill. They are in the bill. The bill applies to them. The bill was amended to provide a lighter touch to small counties,” Wiener added.

He said he wanted to treat all counties the same, but the change was part of a compromise in a Senate committee last year to move the bill forward…

We will let Wiener’s words stand as our best argument against SB50.

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