Report: Lack of Apartments Contributes to the Housing Affordability Crisis

It's going to take "radical policies" and "political courage" to overcome the housing shortage in California, according to a recent working paper, but they will be necessary to overcome the negative consequences of the planning and zoning status quo.
July 12, 2019, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Carsten Tolkmit

A new working paper [pdf] byJenny Schuetz, from the Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Policy Program, and Cecile Murray, from the University of Chicago, recommends building more housing as a solution to the housing affordability crisis in California.

The report, written for a working paper series from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley, uses new data from the Terner Center California Residential Land Use Survey to examine how zoning deters the development of new multi-family buildings.

"Too many of California’s high-rent cities have built too few apartments, contributing to the current shortage," concludes the article that promotes the new working paper.

One challenge facing zoning reforms intended to encourage new supply of multi-family residential explored by the working paper is the multitude of tools local governments have to obstruct the construction of such residential buildings.

"Many communities simply ban multifamily buildings outright on most of their land," according to the post. "Whereas the median California city allows single-family homes on at least 50 percent of land, the typical city allows apartment buildings on less than 25 percent of land (Figure 2). Even where apartments are allowed, local governments often restrict building heights or apartment densities to a degree that makes development financially infeasible."

The article also lists ad hoc discretionary approval processes to add risk to the development process and deter many developments.

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Published on Thursday, July 11, 2019 in Terner Center for Housing Innovation
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