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Aligning Housing and Sustainability Goals in California

housingIt has been a decade since the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act [1] (Senate Bill 375) was passed in California. Recently, a study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation [2] at the Berkeley University explored how the housing provisions of SB 375 had been implemented so far in an effort to better understand how the Golden State was positioned to advance the goals of this legislation.

The study [3] said that California's experience in implementing this piece of legislation offered valuable lessons for other states and regions "attempting to mitigate climate change through sustainable development." It assessed the implications of SB 375 for real estate planning and production in the context of the legislation's housing provisions that include housing affordability crisis and climate change. Using both interviews and data, the study provided recommendations to maximize SB 375's potential to address California’s climate change management and home affordability needs.

"High-growth U.S. metropolitan areas face two major crises: accelerating climate change and severe affordability problems," the researchers at Terner Center said. "The major metropolitan areas in California—Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego—are among the most heavily impacted in the country. And the housing that has been produced has not been built in the places where
it is most needed, either to alleviate the affordability crisis or to promote compact, transit-accessible development."

The researchers found that while it was encouraging that California policymakers were addressing the problems of housing affordability and climate change together, the SB 375 had so far made far stronger impacts on planning processes than on actual development and laid the groundwork for a statewide shift in development patterns.

They recommended that SB 375 was an "important and necessary step" to align housing and sustainability goals that had deeply influenced the regional planning process in California. "However, the law’s impact is limited by insufficient incentives and enforcement mechanisms," the study said. "On its own, and without increased funding and facilitation, SB 375 cannot sufficiently impact development patterns to meaningfully meet California’s urgent affordable housing and sustainability needs."