Terner Center Blog: No Limits

Author Archives: Carol Galante

Why We Need a New Conversation on Rent Control in California, Today.

Posted on by Carol Galante

Leaders seeking to address California’s housing crisis are facing an important challenge: how to take meaningful and significant policy action to “stop the bleeding” of rising costs, eviction and displacement without generating new challenges that will only prolong the state’s deep affordability challenges.

Today’s debate over rent control, and particularly, the movement to repeal Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (which places statewide limits on how jurisdictions implement rent control), has pushed this challenge to the fore. One side of the debate is working to qualify a measure on the November ballot that would fully repeal Costa-Hawkins, enabling localities to expand rent control in their jurisdictions, in an effort to protect tenants from rising rents and displacement. The other side is concerned that this repeal will disincentivize both ongoing investment in existing rental homes as well as much-needed new construction of new housing. Both sides are gearing up for a full-blown battle over the ballot measure.

The Terner Center believes these two choices represent problematic extremes, and that there needs to be an honest conversation about alternative paths that can meaningfully protect renters without inhibiting investment in existing homes or preventing new homes from getting financed and built. There are a growing number of leaders and stakeholders who agree that this conversation is needed and that an all-or-nothing fight over the current Costa-Hawkins law will be costly and highly politicized and that ultimately, whichever side wins, renters in California will lose.

To inform and stimulate this “third way” dialogue, we have been working to identify potential policy alternatives, engaging stakeholders on the ground, researching models in other states, and thinking through the pros and cons of multiple strategies. In a new brief, we present two ideas: one that provides real protections against egregious rent increases for all Californians via a statewide cap on rent increases, and a second that creates more affordable housing overall via a new incentive program for the creation and retention of Below Market Rate units.

These proposals are not intended to represent the solution to California’s housing crisis, and need not be thought of as in lieu of other renter protection policy efforts or other pushes to expand the supply of housing in the state. And while we believe they are more effective approaches than a full repeal of Costa-Hawkins, they also do not preclude reforms to the law. In the appendix of our brief, we explore a few such potential reforms, such as extending rent control to certain types of single family rental homes, or adopting a “rolling inclusion” to make more units eligible over time. But these proposals are intended to serve as a starting point for a much-needed and urgent dialogue about the true impact of current options on rent control, and ideas for a better path forward.

This dialogue is especially urgent in this moment. If the repeal initiative is not withdrawn from the ballot by late June, all the attention and focus on the repeal effort promises to distract policymakers and confuse voters about other important policy efforts to address the housing crisis in the state, such as the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018.

We are calling on advocates, policymakers and thought leaders to come together for this dialogue, and help break through the noise of the current binary rent control debate to find a viable, more sustainable option. We need more thoughtful and effective solutions today and look forward to engaging with others to make that a reality.


A Reform Proposal for the Federal Housing Administration

Posted on by Carol Galante

Media reports and other sources in Washington, D.C. suggest momentum is building for housing finance reform. According to a recent piece in National Mortgage News, “the White House and congressional GOP are eyeing a tight window between tax reform and the 2018 midterms to pass housing finance reform. And with key policymakers readying their exit, the effort could be the most concerted push yet.” As policymakers debate the future of the nation’s housing finance system, I urge them not to overlook both the importance of the Federal Housing Administration and the improvements it needs in order to fulfill its mission and…


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…


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?

Posted on by Carol Galante
Filed under: Informing the Dialogue

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…