Traffic and housing, housing and traffic. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (do the kids know what that is anymore?), I’m going to keep saying it: traffic and housing.
We’re working on traffic. We’ve built capacity, not on our roads, but through our transit system. That’s the only way to reduce the hours spent in traffic: we need to think creatively about how to build more capacity into the system for people to get around the city. And I’m proud to have been part of addressing the issue.
The housing issue is actually pretty similar to traffic. Instead of being constrained by the time it takes to get somewhere, young families are constrained with rising housing costs. The end result is the same: stress, wasted resources that could be used to build our economy, and a poorer quality of life.
If the problem is similar, so is the solution. We need to think creatively about how to build more capacity into the system – more places for people to call home. In the Valley itself, traditional single-family homes can’t be the solution: we just don’t have the space. But just as we’ve built capacity through transit, not roads, the Valley can build more housing through multi-family, mixed-use communities.
Some housing advocates have a different idea: they want to further restrict how much housing is available by expanding rent control. They’ve placed an item on the November ballot, Proposition 10, which is the first step to imposing rent control in local cities.
What does Proposition 10 do? It makes building and investing in rental units much less likely to pencil out. It makes converting apartments to condominiums much more attractive. It creates instability as retirees who own rental properties will be dependent on political whims. And it threatens single-family homeowners who won’t be guaranteed the right to rent out their homes or a spare room at market rate.
Here’s what Proposition 10 doesn’t do. It doesn’t increase the supply of affordable housing. It doesn’t help homeless people access housing. It doesn’t help raise revenue for local governments to address homelessness: in fact, according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, it will reduce city revenues.
Proposition 10 repeals a core tenet of California housing law, the Costa-Hawkins Act, without any replacement or any type of plan to increase affordable housing.
When I talk to developers, I hear their frustration with the lengthy, expensive hoops they have to jump through. They have extensive CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) barriers, even for infill development. They go through drawn-out local planning processes designed by NIMBYs, even when the zoning is 30 years out of date and the project is a huge improvement on the vacant lot or run-down building they’re replacing. And if Proposition 10 passes, developers won’t be able to rent out those units at market rate.
Now, I know that developers are a little nuts – you’d have to be to get into that business in California. But they’re not completely crazy, nor are they dumb. They’re also not building housing out of magical thinking and the goodness of their hearts. They’re businesspeople. They have to deal with the realities: the value of land, the requirements of financers, rising construction cost, and the end goal of making a profit.
At some point, projects just don’t pencil out. Then you have a housing freeze.
If Proposition 10 passes, a few lucky renters will hang on to their units, which will get
shabbier as landlords can’t afford to maintain
or refurbish them.
Everyone else – growing families, retirees with a few rental units that are their nest egg, homeowners who want to rent out their granny flat to help with the mortgage, young adults trying to move out of their parents’ place, veterans who are coming home, homeless people who want to transition into their first market-rate home – is completely screwed by Proposition 10.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.