Terner Center Blog: No Limits

Author Archives: Carol Galante

A Golden Rule for the Golden State? How State Action Could Help Solve California’s Housing Crisis

Posted on by Carol Galante, Carolina Reid

In the United States today, over 20 million households are spending more than 30 percent of what they earn just to pay the rent or mortgage on their home. Both locally and nationally, the repercussions of this affordability crisis are taking center stage. In recent weeks, the resignation of one local leader over housing costs and frustration with chronic political inaction in her community set off a flurry of media coverage and social media conversation. Meanwhile, recent poll results have elevated the issue of housing affordability onto the national stage as well.

Underlying these recent events is the reality that the growing cost of housing is due in part to a shortage of supply. In many of the country's fastest growing regions, a consistent lack of housing production has resulted in a post-recession economy with strong job growth, but nowhere for employees to live. Even middle income families - the backbone of the American economy - are increasingly struggling find a home they can afford.

California alone needs to make room for almost 2 million new households in the next 15 years. Many are already here - young millennials eager to remain as they join the workforce - and many others hope to come in search of educational and job opportunities.  Where will these households live? Who gets to live and stay in California? And importantly, who decides? These are the fundamental and difficult questions this affordability crisis is raising, and it is an urgent, and perhaps propitious, moment for answers and action.

If we want to ensure California is a place of equitable opportunity, we must address one of the key barriers to housing production and contributors to constrained supply: exclusionary land use policies. These policies complicate, inhibit, or even impede the housing development approvals process, especially for multifamily construction. They also add significantly to development costs, making it very difficult to finance the construction of affordable units. We need policies that provide greater predictability, efficiency, and standardization, and which put an end to the political manipulation and exclusion built into the current process. The walls must come down.

But to paraphrase a line from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, “winning is easy; governing is harder.” When it comes to expanding housing supply, identifying the issue is certainly simpler than getting to agreement on how to solve it.  

That is why, today, the Terner Center for Housing Innovation is releasing a working paper examining Chapter 40B, a Massachusetts policy that is complementary to Governor Brown’s “by right” proposal in many ways, and which has effectively streamlined the housing approval process and expanded affordable housing production in communities across Massachusetts for over five decades. Our paper, Borrowing Innovation, Achieving Affordability: What We Can Learn From Massachusetts Chapter 40B, describes how Chapter 40B has worked in Massachusetts to address local barriers to housing production, and provides an analysis of how this policy might be adapted and adopted in California, introducing the concept of a “California 40B.”

California 40B is the kind of policy proposal that, though not the only solution, would position California to intervene in exclusionary practices where they are most aggressively practiced and promote more equitable development in communities across the state. As with all bold ideas, the devil will be in the details. A convening to explore the implementation of California 40B would be an important opportunity for a broad set of stakeholders and citizens, including the voices of those who are most affected by the consequences of inaction, to engage with the idea.  

If we want to expand the housing supply and ensure California is a place where all families can live and thrive, California 40B provides a compelling way forward.

State Policy Solutions to the Short Supply of Housing

When it comes to a lack of affordability in housing, it’s no secret that California is outpacing the nation. Average home prices are about two and half times more expensive than the rest of the country, and rents are about 50 percent higher. A shortage in supply is a key contributing factor, and we need both public policy and private sector solutions that will help expand housing production to better meet demand. This week, the Terner Center is sharing an analysis of one important avenue to meeting this challenge in California: improvements to state land use regulations to promote an…

Putting the Tool to Work: Takeaways from the Housing Development Dashboard

Posted on by Carol Galante

The Terner Center’s recent release of the Housing Development Dashboard was met with enthusiasm from media outlets, practitioners, and policymakers, all commenting on its important contribution to our understanding of local housing production and related policies. I want to share some of my biggest takeaways from the Dashboard, to illustrate why and how I think it can provide critical insight into these issues, and help to pave a way forward in addressing our housing challenges in the Bay Area and eventually, nationwide. In many ways, the Dashboard validates, and provides evidence for, much of my intuition (honed from a career in…

Launching the Housing Development Dashboard

Posted on by Carol Galante

In the short time since we launched the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, I have been inundated with requests to weigh-in on the issue of how to best address the housing affordability crisis- not just at its epicenter in the San Francisco Bay Area- but in similarly situated high job growth regions from Boston to San Diego. While there are multiple contributing factors to the crisis, I keep coming back to one simple premise: supply matters, and we need to expand housing supply in equitable and environmentally sustainable ways.  This statement rarely makes anyone happy.  Most want to hear answers…

Why By-Right Affordable Housing in California is the Right Thing to do

Posted on by Carol Galante

The following piece was originally drafted as a letter of support for Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed legislation to streamline local housing approvals. The original letter, with citations, can be found here.   The Permit Streamlining Act. On May 13, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a change to state law that would streamline affordable housing proposals and spur much needed housing production. Introduced as a part of the administration’s May Revision to the 2016-17 Budget, the by-right bill would effectively change the way local jurisdictions approve housing projects. In doing so, Brown has acknowledged that in order to facilitate more building throughout…

Federal Housing Administration Delivers Success

Posted on by Carol Galante

Today, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) delivered its Annual Report to Congress and the report demonstrates that FHA met and exceeded the 2% capital reserve requirement for the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMIF) and improved the Fund value by over $40 billion since it went negative in fiscal year 2012. This good news validates that the policies put in place by FHA over the last 7 years have enabled FHA to strengthen its financial position while also strengthening the economy and providing access to mortgage credit to millions of families. The FHA team deserves tremendous credit for this achievement. The…

Housing: The Silent Crisis?

This piece was originally published on the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foudation for Housing America's Families Blog on June 30th, 2015. The original post can be found here. June 18th marked the official launch of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families. As a member of their National Advisory Committee, I was in attendance for the event, and had the opportunity to share some thoughts on the “Silent Housing Crisis.” The subject is of particular interest as I prepare to launch The Terner Center for Housing Innovation, which shares many of the goals of JRT Housing. Both JRT Housing…

Coming To Berkeley

Posted on by Carol Galante

As many already know, I have started my new appointment as I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor in Affordable Housing  and Urban Policy in the Department of City and Regional Planning with the College of Environmental Design here at UC Berkeley. I  would like to introduce myself, say “hello” and share a bit about what I’m working on and looking forward to in the coming  semesters. As an alumni of the Master’s in City Planning program, this is somewhat of a homecoming. I have returned to the Bay Area from  my role in the Obama Administration as Assistant Secretary for Housing and…

On Housing, Good News for Families and Communities

Posted on by Carol Galante

President Obama’s announcement that the Federal Housing Administration will lower the cost of its home loans by one-half of a percentage point (.50 basis points) should be very welcome news. Home loans will now be within reach for many more hard working and responsible families who have been left on the sidelines of the economic recovery. This cost reduction is good for homeowners and would-be homeowners, communities still struggling to recover from the recession, and the economy more generally. The National Association of Realtors reports the first-time homebuyer has been largely absent during the economic recovery. The inventory of homes…