News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by

Where is the political will to tackle California's housing crisis?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 15: A large "rent" banner is posted on the side of an apartment building on June 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California. According to a report by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, the tepid real estate market could see a turnaround with the price of rental properties surging and vacancies dropping from 10.6 percent in 2009 to 9.5 percent last year, the lowest level since 2002. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Listen to story

Download this story 6MB

Living in Southern California is getting more and more expensive.

That's probably not a surprise to many of you.

The state knows about this problem, too.

"In the last 10 years, California has built an average of 80,000 homes a year, far below the 180,000 homes needed a year to keep up with housing growth," according to a recent report by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. "This lack of supply greatly impacts housing affordability."

Los Angeles, itself, has to bite off a big piece of that pie.

"L.A. needs about 85,000 houses dropped on it, and then 30,000 houses a year after in order to keep prices and rents from rising even more," according to Richard Green from the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Increasing the pace of home construction is a tough sell, though.

Current homeowners might not like the flood of new houses nearby because that would affect the price of their own place.

More neighbors could also lead to changes in the quality of life.

"Once you are in a community, you don't want anymore traffic. You don't want any more pressure on your schools," says Green. "That's the thing that makes this more difficult politically: people don't like their neighborhoods to change."

That might be why Governor Brown didn't directly address the state's housing crisis in the proposed budget he released earlier this week.

"He's just gotten very frustrated with local governments not being willing to do anything," says Green

KPCC reached out to Brown's office for comment, but they declined our offer.

However in 2016, he tried to pass a law that would speed up the permitting process for home construction, as well as allocate $400 million for affordable housing projects.

Both of those attempts failed with state lawmakers.

"So I think his view, now," says Green, "is to tell local governments to change what they do."

He doesn't see that happening on the horizon.

"We have 88 communities in Los Angeles, and no one of them on their own can really fix this problem," says Green. "You need a coordinated strategy."

In fact, the city of Los Angeles might tighten, not loosen, the spigot on home construction during the upcoming March election.

Measure S would put a two-year moratorium on most large building projects in the city.

"If that passes, I do think that it would make housing more expensive here," says Green.