We are delighted when we see a really good piece of reporting. Compliments toMichael Smolens, columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, for a job well done in his March 11, 2020 column, “Housing Debate Needs to Get Facts Straight.”

Smolens delves into the huge variations in claims about the size of California’s housing shortage. Those claims include a gross exaggeration that has sent Sacramento lawmakers into panic, fueling the most divisive housing bills in decades — SB 50 and SB 827 — and now SB 902, all authored by misguided state Sen. Scott Wiener.

Livable California and a broad, statewide coalition of working-class, equity and middle-class organizations, helped kill Wiener’s community-harming SB 50 and SB 827. Now, we’re launching an effort to kill his even worse SB 902. SB 902, misunderstood by California media who no longer have enough staff to dig into the fine print, seeks to smother California in six-unit apartment buildings — not “fourplexes” — wiping out single-family areas and homeownership on an unprecedented scale. SB 902 also seeks to gut thriving neighborhoods in local transit-oriented development zones — to erect luxury apartment buildings.

Smolens, the columnist, takes a close look at an exaggeration repeated by almost all media covering the affordability crisis: that we have a housing shortage of 3.5 million units.

Smolens writes, “a study released in August not only raises doubts about that 3.5 million figure, but says the actual need is more like 1.5 million housing units. That’s still a lot, but if it becomes part of the ongoing debate, the lower figure could potentially change the political dynamics surrounding it.”

The 3.5 million number was devised by McKinsey & Co. consultants. The August study Smolens cites, conducted by the Embarcadero Institute, showed the 3.5 million figure has no basis in reality.

“Even the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has a much lower projection than the 3.5 million,” Smolens writes. “The HCD suggests the additional housing need by 2025 is around 1.1 million, according to the Embarcadero Institute report.”

And 1.1 million is a reachable goal, via rational solutions that don’t waste another year. The Embarcadero Institute report raises disturbing issues about Sacramento’s two-year tirade, led by Sen. Wiener and his small band of allies, that blames California’s more than 400 cities for the housing affordability crisis.

“It begs the question,” the August study by Embarcadero Institute asks, “why are state legislators using the McKinsey analysis rather than the state-mandated analysis of the HCD? …  What if rising rents and housing displacement have less to do with an extreme shortage of housing and more to do with the growing socio-economic gap?”

Smolens urges experts to get to the bottom of the numbers game driving the housing drama in Sacramento. As he notes, “Embarcadero says the Building Industry Association suggests an average of 1.5 jobs per home is the proper ratio for jobs to housing. … By that calculus, California would need a total of 12.9 million housing units. As of 2017, the state had 14 million housing units.”

To read the full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, CLICK HERE.