Is California still a trendsetter?
When I was young, people used to say that global trends started in America and American trends began in California. One famous example was Proposition 13, which signaled a broader tax cut movement in many other states and countries.
California recently passed a couple of bills that may signal the beginning of a major pushback against NIMBYism. SB-9 allows homeowners to divide lots in two, and then build two housing units on each of those lots. Of course many lots are too small to do this, and thus the impact on housing construction is likely to be modest:
A property must meet certain criteria under SB 9 before it can be developed into multi-family housing. It must be large enough, for example, and the owner must live there for at least three years before splitting the property. A study by UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that the new law likely would add, at most, fewer than 700,000 housing units across California.
Another bill aims to reduce red tape in new construction:
Newsom on Thursday also signed SB 10, creating a process that lets local governments streamline new multi-family housing projects of up to 10 units built near transit or in urban areas. That new legislation also simplifies zoning requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act, which developers complain can bog down projects for years.
For years, environmental regulations have been used to stop new housing projects, even though adding density to urban areas near transit lines actually helps the environment. (As an analogy, environmentalists often shut down zero-carbon nuclear power plants, which means more reliance on fossil fuels.)
Housing regulations have dramatically increased the cost of housing in many high productivity regions. As a result, younger adults who grew up in California are often forced to move to other states in order to find affordable housing. NIMBYism has even spread to formerly “open access” areas of the country, such as Austin, Texas. Let’s hope that these two California initiatives are a sign that the tide is turning.
Sep 24 2021 at 10:39am
NIMBYism is best understood as rent-seeking by property owners in those areas, and indeed a huge chunk of the payroll paid by tech companies in the Bay Area goes straight into the pockets of the landlords. As that is one of the main engine of US economy, they are imposing costs in lower growth onto the entire nation and then some, so it’s not just a local issue.
SB10 is unlikely to do any good, as it allows local governments to streamline the rules, but those same local governments are the problem, so expecting them to actually avail themselves of these new powers is naive to say the least.
Sep 24 2021 at 1:30pm
The local governments are part of the problem. While they might like being part of the problem, they probably don’t like part of the problem being out of their control. I’m not sure if this is applicable because I’m not sure where the decision making process they are streamlining resides, but if SB10 allows local governments to move decision making to the local government as opposed to a state or regional entity, then it reduces (hopefully to 1) the number of corrupt institutions developers have to deal with, and reduces the number of palms that have to be greased and/or reduces the number of points pressure has to be applied to. If SB10 just allows for more streamlined procedures for decision making already within the local government’s control, they you are probably right, unless you have politics that supports the idea of growth but bogs down actual projects, it could allow local governments to somewhat pre-tie their hands before they have a specific project to object to.
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