Housing permits drop statewide, stoking fears that goals will continue to go unmet

The state’s Department of Finance has released grim statistics when it comes to California meetings its housing goals amid the state’s housing crisis.

Overall housing permits issued in the first five months of 2019—about 110,000—represents a 12.2% drop over the same period last year. Multi-family housing development fared even worse: Those permits fell 42.2% to a paltry 46,000 units—making Gov. Gavin Newsom’s goal of building some 3.5 million new homes by 2025 even more out of reach.

Meanwhile, the creation of single-family homes—the most expensive form of housing—has increased 1.9%.

“Intuitively, the increase of single-family development might be due to timing of new large scale communities that have been going through their respective approval process,” said Brian Ulaszewski, executive director of the Long Beach-based nonprofit City Fabrick. “The slowdown in starts for new multi-family development could be the rush of rental housing trying to hit the market in local markets before their competitors do. In that case, the result might have been this abnormal spike for those opening new multi-family development starts.”

Ulaszewski joins others, including UCLA Anderson senior economist David Shulman, in noting the layers of issues behind falling housing construction: the aftereffects of the Great Recession, land and site availability, environmental and zoning restrictions, high student-loan debt, rental-market saturation, and growing community consternation related to development, “which includes everything from gentrification and displacement, traffic and parking, to other general NIMBY issues,” Ulaszewski said. “We’re seeing a lot of this locally, so it will be interesting to see if that is consistent with the region, state and nation.”

But perhaps most astounding is how past laws are failing and new laws are picking up the slack: According to the Department of Planning at the city of Los Angeles, ADU (commonly called “granny flats”) permits in the city of Los Angeles alone accounted for somewhere between 5% and 10% of the housing increase statewide and accounted for a fifth of all the housing permits issued in the city. This was after a statewide law in 2017 forced municipalities, including Long Beach, to draft their own ordinances in coordination with the state law regarding the building of granny flats, which are tiny units built on lots which typically host a single-family home.

“What this points to is an astounding failure on a local level,” said Louis Mirante, board member of SacYIMBY. “The passage of ADU laws statewide has been wildly successful—meaning upcoming bills like AB 68, AB 881 and SB 13 will up production and lower cost more efficiently than local laws.”

This comes in the wake of the failure of SB 50—one of the state’s boldest housing policies that, after its second iteration, was also opposed by our own city council—and the state’s continued push to create more control of housing production inside municipalities.

And it is not as if state politicians don’t have proof that local laws are failing, even in Long Beach.

When it comes to Long Beach, we are failing heavily, especially in terms of affordable housing units: According to our city’s state-mandated assessment of affordable housing it is required to submit to the state every eight years, of the 7,048 affordable units needed to be built in Long Beach between 2013 and 2021, only 1,650 building permits have been issued as of December 2017. That means 77% of the affordable housing we said we have to build by 2021 haven’t even had a permit issued.

Let’s add the other layers: Our metro area leads the nation in hosting the most cost-burdened households while our city is the seventh worst in the nation. Our metro is the 10th most segregated area in the nation. Long Beach is not building enough housing for the working middle-class.

This isn’t to dismiss significant albeit tardy steps taken by our city’s leaders, particularly including its inclusionary ordinance. Set to face the city council in the coming months, it will be a key cog in increasing affordable housing units throughout Long Beach.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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