California’s political leaders, having ignored and even abetted our housing shortage, now pretend that they will “solve it.” Don’t bet on it. Their big ideas include a $4 billion housing subsidy bond and the stripping away of local control over zoning, and mandating densification of already developed areas. None of these steps addresses the fundamental causes for California’s housing crisis. Today, barely 29 percent of California households, notes the California Association of Realtors, can afford a median-priced house; in 2012, it was 56 percent. At the heart of the problem lie “urban containment” policies that impose “urban growth boundaries” to restrict — or even prohibit — new suburban detached housing tracts from being built on greenfield land. Given the strong demand for single-family homes, it is no surprise that prices have soared. Before these policies were widely adopted, housing prices in California had about the same relationship to incomes as in other parts of the country. Today, prices in places like Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Orange County are two to three times as high, adjusted for incomes, as in less-regulated states. Even in the once affordable Inland Empire, housing prices are nearing double that of most other areas, closing off one of the last remaining alternatives for middle- and working-class families.
U.S. incomes rose and the poverty rate fell last year, according to the Census Bureau’s annual report on economic well-being. The authoritative survey showed continuing progress since the 2007-09 recession. By some measures, however, Americans haven’t returned to levels of prosperity achieved nearly two decades ago.
Democratic lawmakers are siding with organized labor in its battle with automaker Tesla, inserting a provision in a last-minute bill to spend $1.5 billion in cap-and-trade money. The package largely spends funds on a variety of anti-pollution programs, such as those to retrofit and replace smog-belching big rigs and buses. But the legislation, amended late Monday to be ready for votes before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Friday, also would inject the state into an increasingly acrimonious union organizing campaign at automaker Tesla’s Fremont plant. Companies that want to be eligible for the state’s zero-emission vehicle rebate program – a major driver of Tesla sales – would need to be certified by the state labor secretary “as fair and responsible in the treatment of their workers.”
The gap between the median income women and men make in the U.S. narrowed significantly for the first time since the recession. Men ages 15 and older employed full-time brought in a median income of $51,640 in 2016 for year-round work, compared with the $41,554 median income women made, adjusted for inflation, the Census Bureau said Tuesday. This pushes the widely cited female-to-male earnings measure to 80.5%—or 81 cents for every dollar a man makes—up 0.9 percentage point from 79.6% in 2015. Median income for men declined in 2016 after years of sluggish or no growth, while women’s median pay increased slightly, boosting the earnings measure higher.
Brown has, instead, continued the recent practice of giving big projects with heavyweight support – especially major sports venues – full or partial exemptions from CEQA procedures. The current session, in fact, has still another proposed CEQA break for a proposed arena in Inglewood for the Los Angeles Clippers, which were recently purchased by Steve Ballmer, the billionaire former Microsoft CEO. Meanwhile, another bill would prohibit developers who run afoul of CEQA red tape from seeking project approvals via local ballot measures, as many have done. Tellingly, construction unions that use CEQA as a bludgeon are prime sponsors of the bill. It’s another indication that instead of fiddling with CEQA, and probably making it worse, Brown and the Legislature should overhaul it. If, as Brown says, it is truly “the Lord’s work,” then why aren’t they doing it?