[Published by permission of 48hills.org]

The mystery of Newsom’s 3.5 million housing units shortage

The data shows that the figure the governor still uses to justify his policies is just wrong.

“Today,” tweeted California Yimby staffer Louis Mirante on September 28, “the Gov signed 3 Ca YIMBY-sponsored bills. That’s more than any other housing organization successfully sponsored this year.”

Newsom also signed 12 other housing bills. In 2019, he signed a “housing package” of 18 bills. In 2017 and 2018, Jerry Brown signed a total of 31 housing bills into law, including draconian measures such as Wiener’s SB 35 and SB 828, and Nancy Skinner’s SB 330 and SB 167. That adds up to 64 new housing laws in four years.

To justify this legislative onslaught and the rollback of the California Environmental Quality Act and local say in land use that it authorizes, its proponents claim that California has a gigantic housing shortage.

In late September, that claim took a hit. The Palo Alto-based Embarcadero Institute released a critique of the state’s Regional Housing Need Allocations, the amount of housing that each region must permit, divvied up among the region’s cities.

Embarcadero showed that “as an unintended consequence of Senate Bill 828,” the California Department of Housing and Community Development had used “an incorrect vacancy rate and double counting.” The result: 900,000 excess housing units were allocated in SoCal, the Bay Area, and the Sacramento region. HCD’s “[e]xaggerated targets…encourage market-rate housing development at the expense of affordable housing,” where the real housing crisis lies, the report said.

The Embarcadero study, wrote veteran columnist Dan Walters, “clearly sets the stage for a legal and political showdown on how far the state can go in forcing reluctant local officials to generate more housing construction than they want.”

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