Poll shows heavy support for local control over housing

In January 2017, state lawmakers returned to the Capitol determined to make a difference on the state housing crisis. Dozens of bills were touted – including Senate Bill 35, by state Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, which ended up as the most far-reaching law to reduce obstacles to housing construction in modern California history.

But even as momentum built for SB35 and other housing measures, the head of the respected, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office warned in a 12-page report issued in March 2017 that state lawmakers would never be able to reduce the housing shortage without much more support from the public.

“Unless Californians are convinced of the benefits of significantly more home building – targeted at meeting housing demand at every income level – no state intervention is likely to make significant progress on addressing the state’s housing challenges,” wrote Mac Taylor.

Now a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey offers the most definitive support yet for the legislative analyst’s conclusion that when it comes to building new housing, Californians aren’t very enthusiastic.

Few see lack of construction as big problem

The survey asked 1,180 Californians why they thought housing was so expensive in the Golden State. They were given a list of eight possible primary reasons.

The most popular reasons were lack of rent control (28 percent) and lack of affordable housing programs (24 percent).

In the middle tier of explanations were environmental regulations (17 percent), foreign home buyers (16 percent) and the influence of the tech industry (15 percent).

Bringing up the rear were a lack of homebuilding (13 percent), Wall Street buyers (10 percent) and restrictive zoning rules (9 percent).

The Times’ analysis of the poll noted how at odds the public’s view of housing is with the view of economists, policy analysts and housing experts.

There is “general agreement that a lack of supply is at the root the problem. Reports from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office and a host of academics contend that California has a chronic shortage of home building that has failed to keep pace with the state’s population growth – especially during the recent economic expansion – which has forced prices up.”

But this wasn’t the only way Californians parted with conventional wisdom. The survey also included other questions that showed two-thirds of those surveyed backed local control over housing even if local governments weren’t meeting state-set goals for adding housing stock.

It is this local power over the approval process that empowers motivated NIMBYs in city after city. Taylor’s March 2017 study identified it as the single biggest reason behind the emergence of the housing crisis.

“For decades, many California communities – particularly coastal communities – have used this control to limit home building,” the legislative analyst wrote. “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.”

Tech industry certain to keep pushing for housing 

While the USC-Times poll could influence candidates in close elections to side with NIMBY views, it is unlikely to blunt new efforts by the Legislature to use legislation to bring down housing costs. The deep-pockets, influential Silicon Valley Leadership Group is one of many business organizations that sees the housing crisis as a threat to the state’s future prosperity because of its potential to hurt recruitment and retention of workers.

Another of the state’s most politically potent forces – the California Teachers Association – also sees the housing issue as bad news for its members. But the CTA’s main policy prescription for now is Proposition 10 – the Nov. 6 ballot measure that would overturn a 1995 state law and let cities impose rent control. It has generally trailed in state polls, although with high numbers of undecided voters.


Write a comment
  1. Bob Smith
    Bob Smith 29 October, 2018, 19:25

    52% of polled Californians are idiots. Rent control and “affordable housing programs” increase, rather than decrease, median rents and prices.

    Reply this comment
  2. Queeg
    Queeg 30 October, 2018, 09:57


    The masses want “free” college and health care rite naw.

    Housing next ya noooo-

    Reply this comment
  3. Keith
    Keith 30 October, 2018, 10:21

    The California cities with the highest prices and lowest supplies of housing all have rent control laws already, grandfathered from the past. These include: San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles, Berkeley, etc.

    Reply this comment
  4. Cupertino Kid
    Cupertino Kid 1 November, 2018, 16:51

    SB 35 was written for the benefit of developers who can abuse it and create much more office (jobs) versus housing, even though it is supposed to be a “housing” bill. Scott Wiener is supported by developers, developers interests, and the adult film industry (had to throw that in there).

    Even so, in Cupertino certain corrupt city council members apparently still had to help a developer, Sand Hill Properties, skirt the rules. And now they’re going to court.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 1 November, 2018, 18:57

    Oh My. Business about to skyrocket.

    All the free goodies coming from Sir Newsome the Thuringens, Picts and Huns will be bring in trailers galore, housing going through roof in cost and bedazzled doomers will be calling ole Uly to take advantage of the trailer price glut heading to tax, regulation ,cost salvation!!!

    Reply this comment
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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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