California’s Legislative Analyst claims NIMBYism driving state’s housing crisis

When Gov. Jerry Brown’s aggressive proposal to jump-start housing construction by sharply streamlining the approvals process for urban housing projects that met certain conditions died quietly in September, the general consensus was that it was a victim of powerful factions in the Democratic coalition.

Coverage of the “by-right” proposal had emphasized that both unions and environmentalists didn’t want the California Environmental Quality Act to be weakened – even if the Golden State had the nation’s highest effective poverty rate because of sky-high home prices and among the nation’s highest rents. That’s because CEQA lawsuits enable the groups to win concessions from developers and government agencies or to block projects they don’t like. In an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee, Shamus Roller, executive director of Housing California, lamented the proposal’s failure and complained about “the political gamesmanship of powerful interests.”

But now there’s push-back against this tidy assumption about what’s driving the housing crisis, and from an unlikely source: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. In “Do Communities Adequately Plan for Local Housing?” – a report prepared by LAO staff but carrying Taylor’s byline – the first central conclusion is that the process under which the state Department of Housing and Community Development works with cities and counties on their general plans to ensure adequate housing isn’t working. It cites little follow-through from many local governments on past promises and notes that many development plans are badly outdated and unusable. It offers suggestions on how the process might be improved to speed construction of housing stock.

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