LAO: Do Communities Adequately Plan for Housing?

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report last week exploring the state’s housing crisis and, specifically, local governments’ failure to adequately plan for housing in their communities. In addition to the inherent difficulties of the planning and zoning processes, residents’ growing resistance to development is compounding the problem, contributing to a housing shortage that is killing affordability.

The LAO goes on to lay out a set of possible recommendations, including projection modifications, local building incentives, and streamlining of the approval process. Ultimately, however, the analysts conclude that a shift in attitudes about the value of new housing is needed to achieve meaningful change.

Here are some excerpts from the executive summary, but be sure to check out the full report.  

California’s cities and counties make most decisions about when, where, and to what extent housing will be built. For decades, many California communities—particularly coastal communities—have used this control to limit home building. As a result, too little housing has been built to accommodate all those who wish to live here. This lack of home building has driven a rapid rise in housing costs…

The state’s primary existing tool for combatting the problem of inadequate planning and zoning is housing element law. Housing element law requires cities and counties to develop a plan that demonstrates how their planning and zoning rules will accommodate future home building…

Our review suggests that housing elements fall well short of their goal. Communities’ zoning rules often are out of sync with the types of projects developers desire to build and households desire to live in. As a result, home building lags behind demand.


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