Terner Center Blog: No Limits

Category Archives: Informing the Dialogue

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.


Scaling Off-Site Production in the United States: Lessons Learned from Swedish Leader Lindb├Ącks

Posted on by Mark Trainer and Carol Galante

When it comes to innovation in housing, what does the U.S. have to learn from Sweden? More than you might think. Though they have different histories, economies and social contexts, Sweden and the United States share many housing market challenges – including significant barriers to new construction and high cost of production leading to rapidly appreciating housing prices, especially in urban centers. The Terner Center recently published a policy brief providing a detailed examination of the Swedish housing system, and a companion summary outlining key similarities and differences with the United States. And last month, the Terner Center for Housing…


From Small Steps to Giant Leaps: What Must Come Next for the California Housing Agenda?

On Friday, September 15th, the California Legislature approved a package of 17 bills aimed at putting a dent in the state’s housing crisis. While the votes came down to the wire, in the end, the need for solutions won the day, and in the coming weeks the Governor is expected to sign each piece of legislation, officially ushering in the most significant housing policy changes in recent memory. You can read our recap of these bills in an earlier blog post here. Drafting, amending, defending and eventually passing these bills was no small feat, and the legislature, the Governor and…


Too Big to Hide: The Importance of Public Data on the Mortgage Market

Posted on by Carolina Reid and Echo Bergquist

Fair lending is the foundation of a thriving economy, both locally and nationally. Access to credit drives home purchases, revitalizes neighborhoods, and allows families to build wealth for future generations. Since the financial crisis, however, tighter credit standards have made it increasingly difficult to obtain a mortgage, especially for low-income and minority borrowers.  A key challenge facing policymakers is how to reform the housing finance system in a way that provides access to credit for a broad range of households, yet at the same time ensures that homeownership is sustainable over the long-term.  Striking this balance is critical, not only…


Jumpstarting the Market for Accessory Dwelling Units

This post originally appeared on the Berkeley Blog on May 23, 2017. It shares insights from our recently released report Jumpstaring the Market for Accessory Dwelling Units: Lessons Learned from Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.   ADU permitting explodes: Permits as a share of all residential permits. How did Portland, Oregon go from permitting two accessory dwelling units (ADUs) per month in 2009 to almost two per day in 2016?  Now, more than one of every ten housing units built in Portland is an ADU. Compared to other housing types, ADUs, or separate small dwellings embedded within single family properties, are…


Highlights from the Terner Center Promoting Affordability Conference

Though U.S. cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are important engines of the American economy, their rapid growth in jobs and populations has not been met with a comparable pace of growth in housing. The result? Increasing pressure on both the rental and for-sale housing markets, and skyrocketing costs of living for a larger and larger proportion of the people who live in these cities.  On Thursday June 1, the Terner Center hosted a special convening intended to delve into this issue, exploring solutions to that could help expand the supply of housing, lower the cost…


Balancing the tax code to relieve housing cost burdens

Posted on by Terner Center Team

Of the more than 21 millions renters in the United States who are burdened by the cost of housing today, more than 15 million can not access assistance they are eligible for, because there aren’t enough federal resources to meet their needs. In part, this is a result of skewed tax code that directs significant expenditures to homeowners and other policy priorities, and leaves the housing security and economic mobility of renter families behind.  Amidst emerging conversations about reforming the federal tax code, it is important that we are reminded of this imbalance and seize the opportunity, should there be…


Federal Policy Outlook: 2017 and Beyond

Posted on by Terner Center Team
Filed under: Informing the Dialogue

Since November's federal election, many have been considering what the incoming Administration portends for housing policy and practice in the next four years. Last Tuesday, California Housing Consortium and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation welcomed over 100 people to a panel discussion in Oakland intended to explore this question. The event brought together housing experts Michael Novogradac of Novogradac & Associates, Chris Gouig of Alameda County Housing Authority, Matt Schwartz of California Housing Partnership Corporation, and our Faculty Director, Carol Galante. CHC Policy Director Marina Wiant moderated the conversation, asking questions about tranistions in federal leadership in housing, the nature and implications of impending tax reform,…


Balancing the Burden: Proposing a FAIR Tax Credit for Renters Facing Affordability Challenges

Posted on by Carol Galante, Carolina Reid, and Nathaniel Decker

By most accounts, rents have never been higher. In the United States, over 21 million people see more than 30 percent of what they earn go to rent each month. And over 11 million Americans are paying more than 50 percent of their income to rent their home, leaving little left over for other essentials like healthcare and food, and leaving too many facing a precarious stretch of days until their next paycheck. And this is not just a problem of poverty: because rents have risen faster than incomes, even renters who are working full-time and earning modest wages are…


Has The Expansion of American Cities Slowed Down?

Posted on by Issi Romem
Filed under: Informing the Dialogue

This piece originally appeared on the BuildZoom blog. The original post can be found here. Key takeaways: As a whole, U.S. cities maintained a constant pace of outward expansion into rural territory since the 1950s, but behind the facade two groups of thriving cities are behaving very differently. The first group of cities substantially reduced the pace of outward expansion beginning in the 1970s, channeling its economic strength into higher property values. This group includes San Francisco, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Washington, Philadelphia, Portland and Miami. In contrast, the second group of cities accelerated its outward expansion,…