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What California Can Learn from France About Tackling a Housing Crisis

As California continues to grapple with staggering housing issues, France's experience offers lessons about the kinds of housing policies and strategies that work.
January 6, 2020, 10am PST | Camille Fink
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Richard A. McGuirk

France could provide a useful example of a way out of the housing crisis that California faces, writes Yonah Freemark. "How were French officials able to do something that has so far eluded California’s leaders? Local, regional, and national leaders worked together to prioritize housing growth."

Freemark points to two factors behind California’s housing problems: inadequate housing production and insufficient support for the state’s poorest residents. France is also struggling with affordable housing issues, he notes, but a slew of reforms has resulted in a significant increase in housing construction in the last few years.

France is funding affordable housing, identifying and using publicly owned land, and implementing zoning regulations that allow for small-scale infill. In addition, municipalities now have to step up rather than impede the development of affordable housing.

"National mandates require 25 percent of housing in every city to be affordable to low- and moderate-income families by 2025. Cities that don’t comply face fines and even the use of eminent domain to make room for affordable development," writes Freemark.

California could take similar steps to address housing and improve the quality of life of residents, says Freemark. "State officials, perhaps inspired by France, must act quickly to fund additional affordable housing and increase construction to make up for a decades-long deficit."

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Published on Thursday, December 26, 2019 in San Francisco Chronicle
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