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California Governor Jerry Brown Pessimistic on Affordability

Housing often costs a literal fortune in California, and Governor Jerry Brown doesn't see an easy fix. Demand to live in the state is high, but there are local factors at work impeding housing construction.
October 12, 2015, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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California bears the dubious distinction of the nation's second-highest housing prices (after Hawaii, but California is nearly 30 times more populous). Governor Jerry Brown recently shared some gloomy thoughts about the prospect of that changing anytime soon. "We are embedded in the culture we are embedded in," he said. "We can make some marginal changes, and I'm always looking for that."

This article identifies three barriers to more housing: the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a preference for commercial development's higher tax revenues, and local opposition to nearly every proposed project. Although its intent was to protect vulnerable ecosystems, CEQA can be a potent weapon in the hands of NIMBY activists.

Brown is doubtful whether recent calls to reform CEQA and Prop. 13 (an entrenched 1978 measure limiting increases on property tax) will amount to much. He commented, "Reforming CEQA is the Lord's work. But the Lord's work doesn't always get done."

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 in San Francisco Business Times
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