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San Diego Needs a Lot More Housing Than Planned

With housing shortages plaguing markets around the country, there’s no surprise that San Diego is similarly afflicted. As it turns out, however, “America’s Finest City” is going to need to start rolling out a lot more housing than planned in order to keep up with state mandates.

As reported by PublicCEO.com, officials from throughout county convened for a meeting of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which describes itself as “the forum for regional decision-making for the San Diego region.” At the meeting, local officials were updated on state estimates for how much new housing the region would need to produce over the next decade—and it apparently caught some attendees by surprise.

According to the California state government’s estimates, the San Diego region will need to greenlight 171,685 new home permits in order to meet state housing targets between 2021 and 2028. That works out to more than 21,000 units each year for the county, which is almost three times what has been permitted during the past seven years.

California’s state government is increasingly serious about those numbers. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), only 13 cities (2.4 percent of the total) met their full goals last year. Or, put another way, 97.6 percent of cities failed to meet their full goals. Those goals are mandated by California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation and Housing Elements (RHNA) rules, which were implemented in 1969 and require “that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community.” Moreover, 70 percent of California cities failed to meet their housing goals for any income level. (Counterintuitively, Beverly Hills was one of the few California cities to not only meet but well exceed their goals in 2017.)

California has been exploring options to try and keep up with housing demand, including relaxing regulations about building new units near transit stops, and the topic has been a hot-button issue for the state’s candidates for governor. Still, many of the local San Diego officials at the SANDAG meeting weren’t happy about the state’s mandated housing numbers.

San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf criticized environmental regulations stipulated by the California Environmental Quality Act, which Zapf said complicated and slowed the process of bringing new homes into the market. “If you could actually help streamline with CEQA reform, not allowing 15 percent of construction workers to work 100 percent of the jobs when we’re building taxpayer-funded projects, things like that would go a long way to allow … mayors from all 18 cities to actually get housing done.”

“We all love building things,” said San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond. “What you’re hearing today is the venting that we get when we’re sitting at the dais and we’re trying to let you know that it’s not as easy as [having] someone from the state [come] down here and [say], ‘You have to build all these or we will penalize you.’”

HCD Director Ben Metcalf responded to the criticisms by saying, “I do hear that you are out there on the front lines trying to deal with really competing political forces, trying to do the right thing every day.”

A 2016 study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that housing shortages in California cost the state between $143 billion and $233 billion annually.

About Author: David Wharton

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