Report: California's Affordable Housing Allocation Favors Wealthy Coastal Cities

A combination of factors including a lengthy appeals process and the cost of construction have led to huge disparities in the number of units allocated to each community.

January 20, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Newport Beach, California

Patrick Pelster / Newport Beach, California

A report from California's state auditor's office highlighted the disparity in affordable housing requirements for different cities, calling the state's approach ineffective and suggesting that the state "improve its statewide housing plan, harmonize its funding programs, and strengthen its oversight of local jurisdictions."

In the eight years leading up to 2021, California "allocated the city of Newport Beach a total of two units of affordable housing," reports Nigel Duara for Cal Matters. Lake Forest, a city of comparable size and population, was allocated 1,097 units. In the same amount of time, Beverly Hills was allocated three units, while Coachella was allocated 2,614. Because local jurisdictions can lobby to change their allocation during the planning stages, "rich cities have been able to build far less affordable housing units than their inland and less-wealthy counterparts."

Regional housing commissions are now using a new allocation process aimed at more equitably distributing housing units. In the most recent cycle of affordable housing allocation, Newport Beach received 4,834 units. Proponents for revised standards argue that despite high density and land costs, there is a strong need for affordable housing in central areas near transit and jobs. "The new formula skews toward more urban, with a focus on proximity to public transit — also part of a climate goal." Cities like Newport Beach have already started the appeals process.

Friday, January 8, 2021 in Cal Matters

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