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.

1 minute read

January 6, 2020, 10:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink

Paris Aerial

Richard A. McGuirk / Shutterstock

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."

Thursday, December 26, 2019 in San Francisco Chronicle

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Urban sidewalk shaded by large mature trees

Cool Walkability Planning

Shadeways (covered sidewalks) and pedways (enclosed, climate controlled walkways) can provide comfortable walkability in hot climates. The Cool Walkshed Index can help plan these facilities.

June 1, 2023 - Todd Litman

Traffic on the 405 interstate freeway through the Sepulveda Pass at Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California

Congestion Pricing Could Be Coming to L.A.

The infamously car-centric city is weighing a proposed congestion pricing pilot program to reduce traffic and encourage public transit use.

May 30, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

Wildfire threatening hillside homes in Yucaipa, California

Home Insurers Are Fleeing California

Homeowners in the state are finding it increasingly difficult to secure insurance policies thanks to the growing risks of wildfire, drought, and other climate threats.

June 7 - Curbed

Aerial view of terminus of Los Angeles River and port infrastructure in Long Beach, California

Los Angeles County Initiates Effort to Advance Equity in Infrastructure

L.A. County Public Works has launched an initiative to center equity in all of its processes, programming, and services as it plans, designs, builds, and maintains modern infrastructure that uplifts all communities of the county.

June 7 - Los Angeles County Public Works

Aerial view of pickleball court with players illuminated for nighttime play

Addressing the Noise Impacts of Pickleball

Pickleball may be America's fastest growing sport, but it is not universally loved because of the noise it causes. Learn one expert's ideas for mitigating the noise impacts.

June 7 - The Hustle

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.