During the discussion, inclusionary zoning got some air time at yesterday’s hearing. The hearing featured state government officials, academicians and practitioners. The hearing follows the recent release of a report of the LAO, “Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing,” which, among other things, points to both a) inadequate private housing production; and b) the need to reduce barriers to housing construction. Committee staff produced the attached background paper for the hearing.
Leading off the hearing’s witnesses were state housing director Ben Metcalf and director of CalHFA Tia Boatman Patterson whose testimony essentially revealed that state agencies have little to offer to expand affordable housing supply. Following the state-government panel were former HUD official and Bridge Housing CEO Carol Galante, who now heads a housing think tank at UC Berkeley; SD Housing Commission CEO Richard Gentry; and non-profit Eden Housing’s president Linda Mandolini. All 3 witnesses essentially agreed with the LAO report – that housing costs in CA were too high – but it was Mandolini who advocated for more inclusionary zoning, touting legislation like AB 1229 (Atkins).
Senator Ben Allen asked all 3 witnesses to respond to the Governor’s AB 1229 veto message.
“This bill would supersede the holding of Palmer v. City of Los Angeles and allow local governments to require inclusionary housing in new residential development projects. As Mayor of Oakland, I saw how difficult it can be to attract development to low and middle income communities. Requiring developers to include below-market units in their projects can exacerbate these challenges, even while not meaningfully increasing the amount of affordable housing in a given community. The California Supreme Court is currently considering when a city may insist on inclusionary housing in new developments. I would like the benefit of the Supreme Court's thinking before we make legislative adjustments in this area.”
Both Galante and Gentry acknowledged the “barrier” and “cost” effects of inclusionary zoning and though neither of them dismissed the program, they said,
1) If it’s (an inclusionary ordinance) not economical it won’t work; and
2) It will almost always add to the cost of market-rate housing. Mandolini was much less sympathetic to the Governor’s “experience as Oakland mayor” message but did acknowledge that inclusionary zoning
ordinances should be “economical.”
Also, Gentry advocated for more efforts to engage the private sector, referring often to San Diego’s recent guidebook “Addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis in San Diego” – the product of a year-long collaboration between the City, local affordable-housing groups and private development interests (see attached). As you already know, that report lists 11 specific policy recommendations, most of which are proposals to reduce regulatory or policy obstruction to cost-effective housing production. Though most of the hearing seemed to center on getting more money for affordable housing construction, Galante took aim at CEQA and NIMBY policies at the local level as needing reform. She also advocated for reforms to the state’s mortgage-interest deduction and Proposition 13 as a way to increase funding for low-income housing.
The last panel – composed of associations advocating for more housing and a university professor solely focused on spreading inclusionary zoning – offered a combination of local experiences and major policy proposals intended to keep land costs down.