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Affordability or altruism? Looking at the endgame of Senate affordable housing bill package

Pedestrians walk past new apartment buildings in downtown Los Angeles, California on April 5, 2017.
Pedestrians walk past new apartment buildings in downtown Los Angeles, California on April 5, 2017.

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The lack of affordable housing in is maybe one of the biggest crises facing the state of California.

A package of bills making its way through the legislature promises to make it easier for low-income families in California to find and pay for four walls and a roof. But the question remains, with the gap between California’s growing population and the amount of homes being built to accommodate them, will the bills actually make a dent in the deficit?

There are three bills involved -- SB 2, 3 and 35. Senate Bill 2 would slap a $75 fee on real estate transactions to raise money for low-income housing. Senate Bill 3 would put a $3 billion housing bond on the 2018 ballot. Senate Bill 35 would cut regulations for cities who have fallen behind on goals for home building. But in an L.A. Times article looks at analyses from both state and housing groups, which suggest that the package of bills would likely do little to alleviate the problem. Currently, California would have to build 180,000 new homes a year to keep up with population growth. That’s happened just three times since 1989. Overall, the cost of financing homes for the 1.7 million Californians who shell out half of their income or more for rent is estimated to be about $15 billion, nearly equal to the cost of Medi-Cal.

Do you agree with pushing this package of bills if there’s concern about whether it will actually make a meaningful dent in the state’s affordable housing crisis? What do you see as the role of government in making more affordable housing when you’re looking at a gap that can’t really be covered? Will these bills actually help a meaningful number of people?


Carol Galante, faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley; she served as Assistant Secretary for Housing/Federal Housing Commissioner at the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development under President Obama

Chris Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics; his focus includes economic forecasting, employment and labor markets and economic policy