Saturday, August 31, 2019

Affordable Housing Is Becoming A Crisis In California-- Don't Expect GOP Hacks Like Tom Lackey To Be Part Of The Solution


Los Angeles doesn't have any Republicans in its congressional delegation any longer-- and there's only one left in the delegation it sends to the Assembly in Sacramento, Tom Lackey of Palmdale (AD-36). His name is an apt description. The Antelope Valley seat stretches from southern Kern County through the northeast corner of Los Angeles County and into northern San Bernardino County. There are 9% more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district, but that number is deceiving because there are more Independents than Republicans and they tend to lean right.

Goal ThermometerThere are 3 relatively viable Democrats in the race, two conservatives, Steve Fox (a reactionary who lost to Tom Lackey the last 3 elections) and Johnathon Ervin (who hasn’t won an election despite trying 3 times for City Council and once for State Senate). As of today, Blue America is endorsing the progressive in the race, Eric Ohlsen. Eric enlisted in the Coast Guard right out of high school. After this service he enrolled in L.A. City College and ran up $30,000 in student debt. His wife and her family are from Palmdale and that's where they settled. Today he works as a producer and is an unabashed progressive which he believes gives him the best chance of winning over independent voters and beating Lackey. He's a booster of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. He feels he can not just pinpoint the problems that his neighbors care about but that he has the solutions to deal with them.

One of the big ones in the Antelope Valley is an affordable housing crisis that is kicking in all over the region. I asked Eric to introduce himself by talking about that specifically. If you like what you read, please consider contributing to his campaign by clicking on the Blue America state legislative thermometer above. As you can see, he's the only Californian on the list.

California’s Housing Crisis
by Eric Ohlsen

Housing costs continue to increase faster than income levels. The financial strain pushes too many good citizens further and further toward the fringes. While there is no magic policy pill that will solve California’s affordable housing crisis, as a State, and a community, we desperately need to find solutions. That means changing the way we approach the problem as a whole.

First, let’s start at the state level with Proposition 13. Because of Prop 13, both commercial and residential properties are only reassessed for tax purposes when they are sold. So owners pay property taxes based on the value of the property when they acquired it, not at its current market value. The problem with this is that a municipality’s revenue does not reflect the rising costs of its operations, and must therefore cut costs any way possible in order to account for annually increasing shortfalls. And the easiest budgets to slash are social services and education. Prop 13 was a bill that was sold to the public in a way that sounded good at the time, but has ultimately had far too many unintended consequences. It has hamstrung local governments and deprived them of necessary civic revenue, forcing cuts to important social services including affordable housing initiatives.

Another unintended consequence of Prop 13 is on construction of new housing. The city still has the same costs associated with new construction, but not the same revenue. So now cities are forced to work around those costs by passing them onto the developers in the form of up-front fees that must be paid before construction. This additional burden of up-front costs drives up the initial investment and makes it more difficult for developers to build much needed housing throughout the state. This exacerbates the problem of housing shortages and rising home costs to everyone. Also, the front-loaded development fees that cities have become increasingly reliant on, favor large-scale housing developments and shopping malls.

There are currently efforts underway to treat commercial property different than residential property, which has become known as “split roll.” By enacting the split roll, nothing would change for residential properties, but businesses would have their properties reassessed to market values every three years or less and these commercial properties would still be taxed at their value plus 1 percent. These additional funds would help communities across the state pay for much a much needed upgrade in our educational system, fund social programs, affordable housing initiatives, and rebuild civic infrastructure. In short, it will give our communities the resources they need to thrive.

Rent control solutions are also an option, such as AB 1482, which recently passed the State Assembly, and caps rent increases at 7 percent plus inflation. But this legislation falls woefully short because it not only does not go far enough, but it also lacks any renter protections. What good is rent control if a landlord can evict a tenant without any just cause, only to raise the rent as much as they want with the tenant gone? We can and should do better than this, but it is at least one direction where we can find progress.

Next, let’s look at local solutions like Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). CDBGs are allocated to social service programs locally and can be used in very specific ways targeted to the individual needs of the community, for example, subsidized housing or maintaining the stock of affordable housing in the area. CDBGs can also be used to keep small business real estate more affordable, which creates jobs and retains locally owned businesses.

Another local solution to help address California’s housing shortage is to amend zoning ordinances to ease restrictions on second dwelling units. While from a State level these units do not require additional reviews or hearings to build, many local municipalities have restrictive city ordinances in place that create a barrier to secondary dwelling units on a property. These units are beneficial to a community because they increase the supply of affordable housing, increase the urban density, and help homeowners with financial stability. Zoning ordinances can also be amended to account for the development of “tiny house” communities which have been successfully used to help the chronically homeless, but also as an alternative housing solution in other areas.

Finally, and most urgently, let’s look at the housing crisis from the street level. Immediate action must be taken to give help to our most vulnerable neighbors. Those with the greatest housing needs can be helped through expanded programs for subsidized housing. These programs can be paid for in part by the proposed changes to Prop 13 and can help our neighbors now, before they face the devastating effects of homelessness. We can also work to make the system easier to navigate for those in need by continuing to improve the coordination of services through L.A. County’s “No Wrong Door” policy. This helps people to avoid getting swept up in bureaucracy and to find their way to the help they need.

These are all specific things that can be done to help ease the crisis of housing costs in California, but I think that the biggest change has to come with how we approach this problem as a whole. We need to seek out a comprehensive solution rather than treating the problem as an afterthought. This is a problem that impacts literally every Californian and solving it must be seen as a priority by legislators and not some secondary or tertiary problem. We must demand a bolder approach from our State Legislature.

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At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Affordable housing is not going to be addressed by the democraps either.

The democraps get elected simply so the Nazis don't. The money owns the democraps just as much as they ever owned the Nazis. And the money is anathema to affordable housing -- not maximum profit generators.

but by all means... the democrap supermajority has done so much already for affordable housing... or did you not notice?

At 2:29 PM, Blogger bluicebank said...

A slight correction. Independents in California lean more Democratic than Republican. The gap has narrowed, due to more Republicans quitting their party. From the Public Policy Institute of California:

"In our surveys over the past year, independent likely voters have been more likely to lean Democratic (43%) than Republican (31%); 26% did not lean toward either major party. These shares have shifted since 2015, when 37% leaned Democratic, 34% leaned Republican, and 29% did not lean toward either party. Independent likely voters are more likely to be moderate (44%) than liberal (28%) or conservative (28%)."

That is probably not the case in all Assembly districts such as AD-36, but overall Dem-leaning California indies tend to be more liberal than Democrats.

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What no one notices is that Californians have their own solutions to the problem. All across the region, people are teaming up, sacrificing privacy for affordability. I have seen houses where are many as ten working adults are living under one roof. My neighbors across my street have six. I don't know how the expenses are divided nor how well it works for them, but there is a great deal of this going on.

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those solutions are not voluntary. They are forced upon a population of mcworkers living in cities where cost of living is still at CEO level.

But that is the contribution of the democrap supermajority -- do nothing and let the populace be forced into dealing.

as we've seen since 1980, 'do nothing and let the people deal' has been the mantra of the democrap party as they actively serve the interests of the money rather than their voters.


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