Saturday, October 27, 2018

November 6, 2018 Election: California Housing Props

Okay, there is a General Election coming up on Tuesday November 6, 2018.  This is a democracy alert, California!  We'll be voting for a Senator, members of Congress, a Governor and other statewide elected officers, members of the California Legislature, so many judges, initiatives and more.  If you haven't already, register to vote.  Go ahead, I'll wait . . .

I'm not here to cover this election comprehensively.  I'm trying to write a blog post, not a book.  Suffice it to say, I'm on the left and I voted (yes, already, by mail) for lots and lots of Democrats.  I'm here to write about specific ballot initiatives that have to do with housing, which in the Golden State, consumes far too many of the gold nuggets we pan so hard for every day.  Comprehensive information on the initiatives can be found in the California Secretary of State's Official Voter Information Guide.  Let's get into it:

Proposition 1 - Authorizes bonds to fund housing assistance programs.
Prop 1 would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds to pay for housing assistance, including $1.8 billion for multifamily housing affordable to people with low incomes, $450 million for transit oriented affordable housing and supporting infrastructure, $450 million for homeownership assistance for low-income Californians, $300 million for farmworker housing and $1 billion in subsidized home loans for veterans.

I voted yes on Prop 1.  California's housing affordability crisis is the biggest economic problem facing the state and this will help some people cope with that.  At the same time, it's not going to be a panacea.  The legislative analyst projects the bond would serve about 55,500 households in total, a drop in the bucket.  We're still going to have a housing crisis, just one that is a bit less severe than it otherwise would have been.  We still need to build a lot more housing at all income levels to get prices under control.  I especially like that a good chunk of Prop 1 is specifically targeted at transit oriented development, which allows low-income Californians to save money on housing and transportation.

Proposition 2 - Authorizes bonds to fund existing housing program for individuals with mental illness.
At issue here is whether a stream of mental health care funding previously approved by voters can be used to build affordable housing for people with mental illness.  The Legislature has already voted to do this, but that action has to be approved in court.  Prop 2 would basically express that the voters intended this kind of use of the funding in the first place.

I voted yes on Prop 2.  While I think there is an argument to be made that mental health funding should be reserved for things like counseling and other medical care, I also think that for the most severely mentally ill people, all the counseling in the world can only go so far if you're homeless.  Housing is just fundamental to a person's ability to be okay in any sense.  We're in a crisis.  I think that means we have to err on the side of plowing more money into subsidizing housing for those who need the most help.

Proposition 5 - Changes Requirements for Certain Property Owners to Transfer their Property Tax Base to a Replacement Property.
Prop 5 has to do with residential property taxation.  Thanks to 1978's Prop 13, when you buy real estate in California, you get taxed at 1% of the market value at the time of purchase and increases in the property's assessed value are capped at no more than 2% per year.  In reality, most properties appreciate at more than 2% per year, so over time a large gap typically develops between the home's assessed value and its market value.  This means that if you have owned your property for a long time, you are probably paying much less in property tax than someone who just bought a similar property next door.  Under current law, if you are over 55, you can transfer your property's assessed value to a new property under certain conditions: you have to be moving within the same county to a property that has a market value equal to or below the property you sold and you can only do that once in your life.  Prop 5 would make it so that if you are over 55 you could transfer your current property's assessed value without being required to move within the same county, without a limit on the number of moves, and even to a more expensive property (in which case your assessed value would rise, but not to market rate).  In short, Prop 5 would make it easier to carry your low property taxes to a completely new property if you meet the age and other criteria.

I am strongly against Prop 5 and gave it a firm "no" vote.  Prop 13 has had some unfortunate side effects.  It reduced tax revenues for public services such as education and weakened the finances of local governments, which are now heavily reliant on sales taxes to patch their budgets together.  This means that local governments often don't recoup the cost of providing services to housing developments and are much more eager to approve commercial projects that might generate precious sales tax revenue.  Although higher-density housing developments do a better job of covering their costs, these projects are often very controversial and still typically don't perform as well as commercial projects from a local government budgeting perspective.  All of this means cities don't have a strong incentive to approve housing, which feeds into the housing shortage, which makes housing more expensive.  Prop 5 is trying to exempt older homeowners from feeling that crisis by making it easier for them to move without having to pay market-rate property taxes like other homeowners.  The reality is, while some elderly homeowners have financial challenges, on average, these are the wealthiest people in the state.  Cutting their property taxes would harm public services, would worsen the local government disincentive to approve housing and is just not fair.  The real solution is to keep housing prices from rising so much by building enough housing to meet demand, so that people can move without being hammered by property taxes.

Proposition 10 - Expands Local Governments' Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property.
Prop 10 would repeal Costa Hawkins, the state law that sets limits on local rent control ordinances.  I wrote a whole post on Costa Hawkins back in December 2017 ("A California Rent Control Compromise"), which I urge you to read.  It explains what Costa Hawkins does and why I'm skeptical of rent control.  Here's some food for thought: if rent control were some kind of housing panacea, San Francisco and Los Angeles should be affordable places to live, since most of their apartments are subject to it, yet they are some of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

I voted no on Prop 10.  While Costa Hawkins isn't my ideal, it does represent a compromise between unlimited local rent control and totally prohibiting rent control.  Prop 10 could not be amended by the Legislature to reach a better compromise: that would take another initiative, thanks to wording in Prop 10.  Prop 10 would open the door to basically any kind of local rent control, even on new buildings, which I think is problematic because it reduces the incentive to build housing.  On the other hand, if you give buildings some time to pay off their loans and give a return to their investors, perhaps you can apply rent control to them (like 30 years after construction) without hurting the incentive to build quite so much.  Again, high housing prices are caused by the housing shortage.

In Conclusion
When it comes to the housing initiatives on this ballot, it's a mixed bag.  I support publicly funding housing affordable to those with low incomes, and we have a chance to do that with Props 1 and 2.  On the other hand, even $6 billion is a drop in the bucket.  That's funding for tens of thousands of affordable homes, but not the millions of homes we need to really get prices in check.  The only funding source that can build that many homes is private capital (unless we go full socialist or something), so we have to think about things like regulatory reform to make it easier to build homes.  That means stomping all over some of the third rails of California politics: local zoning regulations, NIMBYism, CEQA, Prop 13, etc.  The tragedy of this ballot is the initiatives that might really matter for housing affordability aren't even on the ballot.  The elected positions like Governor and state legislative seats will probably end up being more significant.  We're still not taking the housing shortage seriously, and that has to change.  We have to be willing to say "yes in my back yard" to new housing and not be in denial about basic principles of economics.

Research, think and vote on November 6th!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Lee este libro en el cambio climático, entonces haz algo

Fuente del imagen: Sitio de internet de Oxford University Press
Guau, acabo de leer Cambio climático: lo que todos necesitan saber, segunda edición por Joseph Romm, ¡y fue excelente!  ¡Tiempo para un informe de libro!

Primero, el autor tiene un doctorado en física de MIT, que es básicamente el equivalente en física de ser LeBron James.  Este tipo sabe de que habla.  El libro empieza con ciencias de clima y después mueva a tecnología y política.  Es escrito en una manera muy fácil entender, para una audiencia general, pero es también basado en investigación, con una cornucopia de notas de fin que puedes seguir si quieres sumergirse en las materiales de fuente.  El libro entero es presentado en un formato de preguntas y respuestas.

¿Causan los seres humanos el calentamiento global por quemar los combustibles fósiles?  Sí.  Eso dicen 97% de los científicos áctivamente publicando en este campo.  Lo sabemos con el mismo grado de certidumbre que sabemos que fumar causa el cáncer.

¿Causa el cambio climático unos problemas serios?  Sí.  Pues, a menos que piensas que Miami siendo en el océano no es un problema.  Pero la subida en el nivel del océano es solo parte del cuento.  El cambio climático está:

  • Aumentando la cantidad de ácido en el océano, matando la vida del mar.
  • Haciendo los huracanes más intensas.  Esto incluye empeorando el oleaje de tormentas de aun huracanes modestos, aumentando el riesgo de inundaciones dañosas.
  • Secando áreas secas, que junto con la subida en el mar y la invasión de agua salada en tierra de granjas causará problemas agrícolas en que tendremos que alimentar a 10 mil milliones de personas este siglo con menos tierra agrícola y menos mariscos.
  • Poniendo más vapor de agua en el aire, haciendo áreas mojadas más mojadas y causando dañosas tormentas e inundaciones.
  • Haciendo unos lugares tan calientes o inseguros de comida o agua que con el tiempo no podrán sostener la vida humana, causando flujos masivos de refugiados, guerras o ambos.
  • Empeorando la calidad de aire, ya que climas más calientes producen más contaminación clásica de aire como ozono cerca de la tierra.
  • Etcétera

¿Son todos los países tan polarizados que E.U. cuando se trata del cambio climático?  No.  En la mayoría de otros países, aun los partidos conservadores aceptan los hechos básicos de las ciencias de clima.  En E.U., los Republicanos que no están negando el problema existen (por ejemplo, Arnold Schwarzenegger) pero son una especie en peligro.

¿Han los intereses de combustibles fósiles gastado dinero difundiendo mentiras en el cambio climático?  Pues sí.  ¿Has escuchado de los Hermanos Koch?  Además, grandes empresas con acciones publicamente vendidas han pagado por mentiras, aunque sus informes internas muestran que han entendido este problema por décadas.

Soy muy deprimido por todo esto.  ¿Hay muestras de esperanza?  Demonios sí.  Paneles solares son 99% más baratos que eran en los años 1970s y tenemos pilas y represas en que podemos almacenar la energía que generan usar más tarde.  Hay una tecnología llamado energía solar térmico concentrado que usa muchos espejos reflejar la luz en un torre grande (por ejemplo el Sistema Ivanpah de California).  El torre es lleno de sal que calienta y el calor da poder a un generador eléctrico, aun durante la noche.  Poder del viento crece rápidamente mientras que su precio baja.  Vehículos híbridos existen y pueden ahorrarte dinero.  Vehículos híbridos enchufables y vehículos eléctricos existen, son más baratos y mejores que jamás han sido y están mejorando y llegando a ser más baratos cada año.  Bicicletas y patinetas eléctricas crean cambios en ciudades alrededor del mundo.  China construye energía renovable rápidamente.  California tiene un sistema de tapa y intercambio y requiere que cada vez más de nuestra electricidad venga de fuentes renovables (recientemente fortalecido mucho por SB 100).  Dietas con cantidades más bajas y saludables de carne y productos lácteos (especialmente menos carne de vaca) cortan emisiones de gases del efecto invernadero mucho.

Y claro, hay la planificación urbana.  Sé que lo digo todo el tiempo, pero aquí es otra vez: a través del urbanismo (construyendo densamente, mezclando usos de tierra, diseñando calles para múltiples maneras de viaje) podemos bajar tanto las emisiones de combustibles fósiles.  El urbanismo significa que no tienes que manejar tanto o no tienes que manejar ni un poquito.  El alojamiento multifamiliar es mejor aislado y por tanto usa menos energía.  También ahorra tierra y agua, significando que hay más hábitat natural lleno de plantas convirtiendo CO2 al O2.  Tenemos tantas herramientas.  Hay tanto más decir.  Lee el libro y nunca dejes de luchar.  La lucha todavía te necesita.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Read This Book About Climate Change, Then Do Something About It

Image Source: Oxford University Press Website

Wow, I just read Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, Second Edition by Joseph Romm, and it was amazing!  Time for a book report!

First of all, the author has a Ph.D. in physics from MIT, which is pretty much the physics equivalent of being LeBron James.  This guy knows what he's talking about.  The book starts off with climate science and moves to technology, climate politics and policy.  It's written in a really accessible way, for a general audience, but is also firmly grounded in research, with a cornucopia of end notes you can pursue if you want to plunge into the source material.  The entire book is presented in a question and answer format.

Are humans causing global warming by burning fossil fuels?  Yeah.  So say 97% of actively publishing climate scientists.  We know that with the same degree of certainty we know that smoking causes cancer.

Is climate change causing some serious problems?  Yeah.  I mean, unless you think Miami being underwater isn't a problem.  But sea level rise is only part of the story.  Climate change is:
  • Acidifying the world's oceans, causing sea life to die.
  • Making hurricanes more intense.  This includes making storm surge worse from relatively modest hurricanes, increasing the likelihood of devastating floods.
  • Drying out dry areas, which along with sea level rise and saltwater intrusion into coastal farmland will lead to "dust-bowlification" in which we're going to have to feed 10 billion people this century, but there's going to be less viable agricultural land and fewer fish to do it with (oh crap).
  • Putting more water vapor into the air, making wet areas wetter and causing damaging rainstorms and floods.
  • Making some places so hot or so insecure for food and water that they will eventually be unfit for human habitation, leading to massive flows of refugees, armed conflict or both.
  • Worsening air quality, since hotter climates produce more classic air pollution, like ground-level ozone.
  • Etc.

Are all countries as politically polarized as the U.S. when it comes to climate change?  Nope.  In most other countries, even conservative parties accept the basic facts of climate science.  In America, Republicans who aren't in denial exist (e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger) but they are an endangered species.

Have fossil fuel interests been spending money spreading disinformation on climate change?  Yup.  Ever heard of the Koch Brothers?  Also, major publicly-traded oil companies have been funding disinformation, even though their own internal reports show that they've known about this problem for decades.

I'm super depressed about all this.  Are there any signs of hope?  Hell yeah.  Solar panels are 99% cheaper than they were in the 1970s and we have lithium ion batteries and dams that can store the energy they generate for later use.  There is a technology called concentrated solar thermal power which uses a bunch of mirrors to reflect light onto a giant tower (e.g. the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California).  The tower is filled with salt that heats up and the heat runs an electric generator, even when the sun is down.  Wind power is growing fast as it gets super cheap.  Hybrid vehicles exist and can save you money.  Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles exist, they are cheaper and better than they have ever been and they are getting cheaper and better every year.  Electric bikes and electric scooters are making waves in cities around the world.  China is deploying renewable energy at a breakneck pace.  California has a cap and trade system and mandates that a growing share of our electricity come from renewables (sign SB 100 Jerry Brown!).  Diets with lower, healthier amounts of meat and dairy (especially less beef) can cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

And of course there's urban planning.  I know I'm a broken record on this, but here it is again: through urbanism (building densely, mixing land uses, designing streets for multiple ways of getting around) we can cut out so much fossil fuel use.  Urbanism means you don't need to drive as much, or even at all.  Multifamily housing is better insulated and therefore more energy efficient.  It also saves land, and water, meaning there is more natural habitat out there filled with plants that absorb greenhouse gases like CO2.  We have so many tools.  There is so much more to say.  Read the book and don't you ever give up.  The struggle still has need of you.

Tasas de tenencia de hogares en California por raza

El estado de ser dueño de un hogar es algo importante estudiar en parte porque da beneficios a personas en esa tenencia.  Los dueños reciben costos de alojamiento estables, impuestos más bajos de ingresos, y (en California) tapas en la tasa de aumento del valor del hogar en cálculos de impuestos de la propiedad.  Quiero enfatizar que ser dueño de un hogar no es un dios.  No es bueno para todas las personas en todas las situaciones y hay un estigma dañoso en contra de arrendatarios en nuestra cultura, el otro lado de que es ser dueño como símbulo de tu posición social y una forma de consumo visible (*tos* superficial *tos*).

Las tasas de ser dueño de hogar, como muchas cosas en Estados Unidos, han sido afectas por el raismo individual y estructural.  El color de la ley, por Richard Rothstein, es un libro bueno entender los muchos aspectos estructurales de la discriminación de alojamiento que han existido en E.U.  Lo más conocido es probablemente el dibujo de "líneas rojas," una práctica en que los vecindarios con grandes concentraciones de personas no blancas fueron identificados como "más riesgosos" de una perspectiva de préstamos de hipoteca y fueron hechos inelegibles para seguro de hipotecas federal.  Sin acceso a crédito, personas de color en el siglo 20 tenían un tiempo más difícil siendo dueños de hogar.  Esta política fue fomentada áctivamente por el gobierno federal.  Esto es solo uno que puedo nombrar.

En mi estado de California, en que queremos pensar que somos muy progresivos y avanzados, las disparidades en ser dueño de hogar por raza son claras para qualquier persona que tiene la voluntad de mirar, como mostrado en la tabla abajo:

Tasas de ser dueño de hogar en California por raza (haz clic para ampliar).  Nota que la Encuesta de Comunidades Estadounidenses tiene "latino" como categoría separada de raza.

Traducción: "California Homeownership Rate (2016 Five-Year American Community Survey" = Tasa de ser dueño de hogar (2016 Encuesta de Comunidades Estadounidenses de Cinco Años). "California Average" = Promedio de California.  "White, Non-Hispanic" = Blanco, no latino. "White, Hispanic and Non-Hispanic" = Blanco, latino y no latino. "Asian" = Asiático. "Two or More Races" = Dos o más razas.  "Native American" = Indígena.  "Some Other Race" = Otra raza.  "Black" = Negro.
Debemos ser preocupados por las disparidades en la tasa de ser dueño de hogar en California.  Mientras nuestro estado lucha con una crisis de alojamiento asequible, necesitamos considerar que las personas afectadas peor, arrendatarios, son desproporcionadamente personas de color.  Estas son las mismas personas que han sufrido la mayoría de discriminación de alojamiento en nuestra historia.  Este legado sigue y es la obligación de las personas de conciencia corregir esa injusticia.

Mientras que planeamos nuestras ciudades encontramos mucha hostilidad al alojaimento multifamiliar.  En California, el alojamiento multifamiliar es principalmente (pero no siempre) ocupado por arrendatarios.  En California, los arrendatarios son desproporcionadamente gente de color.  ¿Es la hostilidad al alojamiento multifamiliar, por lo menos en parte, hostilidad a gente de color?  ¿No es una pregunta muy cómoda, verdad?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

California Homeownership Rates by Race

Homeownership is an important thing to study in part because it confers financial benefits on people in that status.  Homeowners get stable housing costs, tax deductions, and (in California) caps on the rate at which the home's assessed value can rise for the purpose of calculating property taxes.  I want to stress that homeownership is not something we should fetishize.  It doesn't make sense for everyone in every situation and there is a lot of harmful stigma against renters in our culture, the flip side of which is homeownership as a status symbol and a form of conspicuous consumption (*cough* shallow *cough*).

Homeownership rates, like many things in America, have been affected by racism, both individual and structural.  The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, is a good book to read to understand the many structural aspects of housing discrimination that have existed in America.  The most well known is probably redlining, a practice by which neighborhoods with large concentrations of non-white people were identified as "riskier" from a mortgage lending perspective and made ineligible for federal mortgage insurance.  Without access to credit, people of color in the 20th century had a harder time becoming homeowners.  This policy was actively promoted by the federal government.  This is just one example of many I could give.

In my home state of California, in which we like to think of ourselves as highly progressive and advanced, the disparities in homeownership by race are plain to see for anyone willing to look, as shown in the table below:

California Homeownership Rates by Race (click to enlarge).  Note that the ACS treats "Hispanic" status as a category separate from race.

We should be concerned about the racial disparities in homeownership rates in California.  As our state struggles with a housing affordability crisis, we need to bear in mind that the people worst affected by that crisis, renters, are disproportionately people of color.  These are the same people who have borne the brunt of historical housing discrimination.  That legacy endures and it is the duty of people of conscience to right that wrong.

As we plan our cities, we encounter a lot of hostility to multifamily housing.  In California, multifamily housing is predominantly (but not always) renter-occupied.  In California, renters are disproportionately people of color.  Is hostility towards multifamily housing, at least in part, hostility towards people of color?  Not a very comfortable question, is it?

Friday, August 3, 2018

La guerra californiana de unidades de alojamiento auxiliares sigue

La Legislatura de California y Gobernador Brown han hecho una cosa muy clara desde 2016: piensan que las unidades de alojamiento auxiliares (UAAs) son una estrategia clave solucionar la cri-tastrophe-pocalypsis-ageddon del alojamiento. UAAs (también conocidas como casitas de abuela) son hogares secundarios y más pequeños que se pueden construir en propiedades con casas separadas en ciertas circunstancias, gracias a la Sección 65852.2 del Código de Gobierno de California.  Muchas ciudades piensan que UAAs son el diablo y básicamente dicen a Sacramento que "puedes quitar nuestros suburbios de nuestras manos frias y muertas."  Como ves el mercado de alojamiento en California depende de si eres dueño o arrendatario de su hogar.  Arrendatarios y dueños de primera vez son muy impactados por los precios altos, mientras los dueños existentes disfrutan costos de alojamiento básicamente fijados (incluso la tapa de la Proposición 13 en subidas de impuestos de propiedad) y podemos disfrutar el aumento en valor de nuestos hogares por la escacez de alojamiento frente a la demanda fuerte.

Este año Sacramente está mirando el tópico de nuevo.  Sabiendo que muchas ciudades aplican las leyes de UAAs con mucha desgana, la idea es cerrar escapatorias y fortalecer los derechos de propietarios que quieren construir UAAs.

Un esfuerzo en esa vena, SB 831 (Wieckowski), por el autor de la ley original de UAAs de 2016, murió el 27 de Junio en el Comité de Gobierno Local de la Asemblea después de pasar por el Senado.  Este acontecimiento fue lamentado por los urbanistas que ven la potencial de UAAs producir un poco de alojamiento muy necesario.  Pero cuando un soldado en la guerra de UAAs cae, otro sube para tomar su lugar.  En este caso, ese comando legislativo es AB 2890 (Ting), que pasó por la Asemblea y está lucando por los comités del Senado.

AB 2890 haría muchas cosas importantes hacerlo más facil construir una UAA.  Aumenta los derechos debajo de la subdivisión (e), que aplica si el gobierno local tiene una ordenanza sumiso o no, permitir "una unidad de alojamiento auxiliar y una unidad de alojamiento auxiliar menor [UAAM] en cada propiedad con una casa separada" debajo de ciertas condiciones, mientras ahora, los UAAMs son en la discreción de los gobiernos locales.  Esto significa que es posible ir de una casa en una propiedad a tres hogares: una casa, una UAA, y una UAAM.  Hace un permiso parecido para múltiples UAAs en propiedades con edificios multifamiliares.  Debajo la subdivisión (a), UAAs que pueden ser regulados por ordenanzas locales, AB 2890 requeriría gobiernos locales permitr UAAs separados de por lo menos 800 pies cuadrados (74 metros cuadrados), mientras ahora los locales solo tienen que permitirlas hasta el tamaño de una unidad estudio, que puede ser mucho más pequeño.  La fecha límite para la revisión ministerial de una UAA es cortado de 120 días a 60 días. También notable es que la propuesta haría los UAAMs algo obligatorio en vez do voluntario por decir que puedes pasar una ordenanza permitir las UAAMs, dentro de ciertos parámetros, pero si no lo haces, hay que aprobarlas según las reglas del estado.

¿Son UAAs la respuesta a los problemas de alojemiento en California? ¿Sobrecargarán nuestra infraestructura y destruirán el carácter de los vecindarios? ¿Quien puede decidir y en el interés de quien?  Eso, querido ciudadano Californiano, es la decisión de tú y tus representantes elegidos.  En mi opinión, hemos ignorado las necesidades de alojamiento de los pobres por demasiado tiempo.  Exigir que los gobiernos locales aprueban UAAs es un paso audaz, pero ¿qué es más audaz, cambiando un poco los vecindarios de los suburbios o obligando que los pobres y la clase media tomen viajes muy largas y dañosos para el medioambiente o que salgan del estado completamente?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

California's Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) War Continues

California's legislature and Governor Brown have made one thing abundantly clear since 2016: they think accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are a key strategy for solving California's affordable housing cri-tastrophe-pocalypse-ageddon.  ADUs (also known as granny flats, casitas, mother in law quarters, etc.) are secondary, smaller homes that can be built on lots with detached homes under certain conditions, thanks to California Government Code Section 65852.2.  Many cities in California think ADUs are the devil and are basically telling Sacramento "you can pry our suburbs out of our cold dead hands."  How you see the housing market in California tends to vary with your housing tenure.  Renters and first-time home buyers are getting clobbered with high housing costs, while existing homeowners enjoy basically fixed housing costs (including Prop 13's cap on property tax increases) and get to watch our homes massively increase in value due to lots of demand for housing meeting not enough supply.

This year Sacramento is at it again.  Noticing that many cities are implementing the ADU laws with extreme reluctance, the idea is to close loopholes and beef up the rights of homeowners who want to build ADUs.

One such effort, SB 831 (Wieckowski), by the author of the original ADU bill from 2016, died on June 27th in the Assembly Committee on Local Government after passing through the Senate.  This development was lamented by urbanists who see the potential of ADUs to get some badly-needed housing supply on the market.  But when one soldier in the ADU war falls, another rises to take its place.  In this case, that legislative commando is AB 2890 (Ting), which has passed the Assembly and is working its way through committees in the Senate.

AB 2890 would do a number of significant things to make it easier to build an ADU.  It expands the rights under subdivision (e), which applies whether the local government has a compliant ADU ordinance or not, to allow "one accessory dwelling unit and one junior accessory dwelling unit [JADU] per lot with a single-family dwelling" under certain conditions, whereas now, the JADUs are at the local government's discretion.  That means you could go from one home on a single-family lot to three homes: a house, an ADU and a JADU.  It creates a similar by-right ADU allowance for multiple ADUs on multifamily residential properties.  Under subdivision (a), ADUs which can be regulated by local ordinances, AB 2890 would require local governments to allow detached ADUs of at least 800 square feet, whereas now locals only have to allow them up to the size of a studio unit, which can be much smaller.  The local government's timetable for ministerial review of an ADU is shortened from 120 to 60 days.  Also worth noting is that the bill would take JADUs from something voluntary for local governments and make their ministerial approval mandatory by essentially saying you may pass an ordinance to allow JADUs within certain parameters, but if you don't, you have to approve them per the state standards.

Are ADUs the answer to California's housing woes?  Will they overload our infrastructure and destroy neighborhood character?  Who gets to decide, and in whose interests will the decision be made?  That, dear California citizen, is up to you and your elected representatives.  In my opinion, we've ignored the housing needs of the poor for too long.  Requiring local governments to approve ADUs is a bold step, but what's more bold, tweaking suburban neighborhoods, or forcing the poor and middle class into long, environmentally-damaging commutes or out of our state entirely?