By Brian Yanity
To better understand why housing is so expensive in Orange County, it helps to compare it with a California county where housing costs far less. Modoc County, in the far northeastern corner of the state, has some of the lowest housing costs in California. It is an example of an low-cost rural county with a decreasing population and and contracting economy that contradicts the perception that "all housing in California is expensive". Modoc is unfortunately typical of many rural counties across the country, but it provides a perfect example of how supply, in relation to economic demand, drives the cost of housing.
(Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B19013; Zillow Home Value Index data through Aug. 31, 2017; Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Modoc County would be considered very affordable by California standards. As shown in the table above, a home costs more than five times more in Orange County than in Modoc, a difference which cannot be explained alone by median household income, which is only double. Things like taxes, permitting and construction costs are likely lower in Modoc County, but they are not one fifth of those Orange County Costs, and they never have been. The disparatity in home prices is caused by supply of housing with respect to demand. In the six years between 2010 and 2016, Orange County's population has increased by 5%, while that of Modoc County has decreased by 9%. There are more people who live in Orange County, or want to live here, than in Modoc County.
The end of our tale of two counties is this: Modoc County, like many rural inland counties, is in desperate need of more well-paying jobs. In contrast, Orange County, like all of coastal California, has plenty of high-paying jobs, but is in desperate need of more housing. Building that new housing is critical to enabling young people to access the jobs in Orange County.
On Saturday, January 27th, we gathered at the Fullerton Public Library to talk about SB 827, which would make housing near transit easier to build. We also looked at how SB 827 might apply to the Fullerton Train Station. We were privileged to have Fullerton City Council Member Jesus Silva join us! Thank you for Jaymes Dunsmore, AICP, Brian Yanity and Brandon Whalen for their efforts in putting this together! If you missed it, you can download the presentation below. Wonder what transit-rich housing might go in your city? Check out the map here: transitrichhousing.org
People for Housing - OC (P4H) brought the YIMBY Movement to Orange County! We officially launched in March and have established ourselves as the grassroots pro-housing voice of citizens in Orange County. We look forward to an even more productive 2018 mobilizing citizens and advocating for the housing critical to Orange County’s future growth and prosperity. Looking back on 2017, we have:
For all of its claims of being an economic paradise, California is a failure when it comes to housing.
Not just low-income, affordable housing, but middle-income, working-class housing for teachers, firemen and long-time residents hoping to live anywhere near work.
"California has a housing crisis. We can't provide housing to our citizens," said Rita Brandin, with San Diego developer Newland Communities. "In Georgia, Texas and Florida, it can take a year and a half from concept to permits. In California, just the process from concept to approvals, is five years – that does not include the environmental lawsuits faced by 90 percent of projects."
Numbers tell the story of California's housing crisis.
* 75 percent of Southern Californians can't afford to buy a home, according to the state realtors association.
* 16 of the 25 least affordable communities in the US are in California, according to 24/7 Wall Street.
* Officials this year declared a homeless emergency in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties.
* 56 percent of state voters say they may have to move because of a lack of affordable housing. One in four say they will relocate out of state, according to University of California Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.
* A median price home in the Golden State is $561,000, according to the realtors association. A household would need to earn $115,000 a year to reasonably afford a home at that price, assuming a 20 percent down payment. Yet, two thirds of Californians earns less $80,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
* The household income needed to afford a median-priced home in the Silicon Valley town of Palo Alto is $450,000.
* In San Francisco, a median priced home is $1.5 million, according to the Paragon Real Estate Group.
* Home prices in California are twice the national average, and 70 percent can't afford to buy a home, according to state figures.
* Median household income in L.A. is $64,000. That's half what is necessary to buy a home.
*1 in 10 residents are considering leaving because they can't afford a place to live, according to a state legislative study, while US Census figures show 2 million residents, 25 and older, have already left the state since 2010.
* In 2016, 30 percent of California tenants put more than 50 percent of their income toward rent and utilities, according to the California Budget & Policy Center. Economists consider 30 percent the limit.
* California needs to double the number of homes built each year to keep prices from rising faster than the national average, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
"The biggest tragedy of California is we have stopped building houses for the middle class," said Borre Winkle with the Building Industry Association of San Diego. "Think of California's housing market as a martini class. We're building some affordable housing at the low end. Absolutely nothing in the middle and the top end is high-income housing, which subsidizes low-income housing. So that is a broken system."
In 2016, the cities of Houston and Dallas built more homes, 63,000, than the entire Golden State, which built 50,000, according to US Census Bureau figures.
"Supply and demands works," said USC real estate professor Richard Green. "People want to be here and we're not accommodating them with new housing and so the cost of the housing goes up."
"The biggest tragedy of California is we have stopped building houses for the middle class," said Borre Winkle with the Building Industry Association of San Diego. "Think of California's housing market as a martini class. We're building some affordable housing at the low end. Absolutely nothing in the middle and the top end is high-income housing, which subsidizes low-income housing. So that is a broken system." (REUTERS)
The lack of housing is a statewide problem for which many share the blame. Current residents adamantly oppose any new project because it will aggravate traffic, already the worst in the nation. Environmentalists oppose growth because most new projects require a lot of land, which they feel contributes to sprawl. They favor infill projects of higher density, just the sort existing residents oppose.
Politicians are caught in the middle. They know businesses needs a growing population to meet labor needs, but are afraid to vote for new housing for fear of being voted out of office.
"Our long-term growth and prosperity is absolutely and fundamentally dependent upon housing that folks can afford," said Elizabeth Hansburg, a young mother who started a “Yes in My Backyard,” or YIMBY chapter in Orange County. “If we want Orange County to be prosperous in the future, we have to have housing that people can afford to live in."
YIMBY members show up at city council and planning commission meetings and advocate for more housing. They counter the typical “Not in My Backyard” groups that typically kill projects by exerting political influence.
"I just thought to myself, there is no one providing a counter argument to this. All the elected officials are hearing is no we don't want this," Hansburg said. "And I thought we needed to balance that conversation in the public sphere. Somebody needed to be there saying: ‘Yes we do want this.’ We do have a housing shortage."
According to a study commissioned by the Building Industry Association at Point Loma Nazarene University, up to 40 percent of the cost of a new home is attributable to the 45 regulatory agencies that govern home building in California.
"California is a state that just absolutely loves regulations. And the problem of housing in California is one of regulatory overreach," Winkel said. "In San Diego, 40 cents on the dollar of production of housing goes to regulations alone. It's not uncommon to have $100,000 in impact fees on a single-family house and try to sell a house with that type of cost burden."
California residents adamantly oppose any new building project because it will aggravate traffic, already the worst in the nation. (REUTERS)
The Newland Sierra project near San Diego is still trying to build a mixed-use community with 2,100 new units on a parcel of 1,900 acres. But builders say they are only developing 775 acres, leaving 61 percent open space.
Yet, environmentalists and local opposition are already threatening to sue, or gather signatures to take the project to a vote.
"NIMBYism has now become a tool for special interests to stop projects," Brandin said. "There's an anti-growth attitude that really creates this roadblock to providing homes and that is creating a disparity. We are leaving out our working class who have to commute hours, sometimes two hours beyond our borders, to work in our city."
A similar, albeit larger project in Los Angeles fought environmental lawsuits for 20 years.
"Very often these lawsuits are not won, but it extends the time it takes to do the development and in development time really is money," Green said. "The thing about environmental groups is they just don't trust developers, period. We're one of the fastest-growing states in the country when it comes to jobs and we're not building any housing. California has the second lowest rate of homeownership in the country. Only Hawaii is lower."
Original article is available here on Fox News
It’s an ageless fight waged in board rooms, council chambers and auditoriums across the state.
Governing bodies take their seats on raised platforms as a parade of angry citizens lambast the latest homebuilding proposal, worried about traffic, schools, crime and property values.
The developers, they say, are greedy bloodsuckers.
The residents, developers say, are NIMBYs — happy to see new shopping centers, apartment blocks and housing tracts, so long as they’re “not in my backyard.”
Now, there’s a new player in this well-worn battleground: YIMBYs.
These are pro-housing, mostly young urban dwellers willing to say “yes in my backyard” to residential development of all types, including subsidized housing for the poor and for-profit housing for the well-to-do.
YIMBY groups have been sprouting up in recent years in high-cost cities like New York, Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area. Supporters drew about 200 people from across the country, Canada and Great Britain to the second annual YIMBYtown conference held last July in Oakland.
In recent years, the movement has spread to Southern California.
Several YIMBY groups took root in Los Angeles County two years ago, with names like Abundant Housing LA and Santa Monica Forward. In March, Orange County activists banded together to form People for Housing.
The Inland Empire, where rents and home prices are relatively affordable, has yet to join this trend, YIMBY supporters said. But YIMBY groups have cropped up in urban areas like San Diego and Santa Cruz.
This past summer, an Oakland housing activist with backing from high-tech firms created California YIMBY, a statewide group formed to lobby for pro-housing legislation in Sacramento.
“We support developments we think are good on a case-by-case basis,” said Mark Vallianatos, co-founder and a steering committee member of Abundant Housing LA, which recently campaigned against a Los Angeles building moratorium and regularly stages “action alerts” to generate support for new housing in the city.
YIMBYs are a new wrinkle in a housing crisis that has the governor, the state legislature, the state Realtor association and the Southern California Association of Governments all grappling for solutions.
The state Legislative Analyst’s Office and Ben Metcalf, director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, have said California needs to boost housing production by at least 100,000 units a year.
YIMBYs are responding to that call by supporting more housing, they say. Their goal is to address high housing costs by building more homes.
“In Orange County, we have different issues, but the root of the issue is the same: A lack of housing,” said Elizabeth Hansburg, an urban planner from Fullerton who co-founded People for Housing in March. “We have a housing shortage.”
If city councils, boards of supervisors and other decision makers are only hearing from housing opponents, they’re more inclined to block a development, or shrink it, Vallianatos said.
“But if they hear from people who support housing, then it’s not just a one-sided conversation anymore.”
A front for developersYIMBYs say they are part of a grassroots movement.
But some Southern California slow-growth and affordable housing advocates say this new faction is “misguided” at best and a “front for developers” at worst.
YIMBYs “have an unsophisticated and unnuanced philosophy that we should build the maximum amount of housing regardless of displacement or price point,” said Santa Monica Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich, who along with her husband spent $125,000 of their own money supporting affordable housing and homeless services initiatives.
Himmelrich said YIMBYs’ “faux affordable housing policies” are designed to hyper-gentrify high-cost Santa Monica. YIMBYs aligned themselves with developer-backed political action committees that helped defeat Santa Monica’s anti-development Measure LV last November, she added.
“They’re not independent thinkers at all. … They show up at so many meetings, clapping for developers,” said Jill Stewart, executive director of Coalition to Preserve LA, which backed Los Angeles’ Measure S, which would have imposed a two-year moratorium on mega-projects.
“They’re against single-family homes, and they’re very much in favor of higher density, and they’re acting as a front for developers,” Stewart added. “ … They’re from the supply-and-demand side. The say, if you build as much luxury housing (as you can), it will trickle down. That’s never worked.”
Jim Gardner, councilman in the Orange County city of Lake Forest, said developers routinely funnel money to political action committees and to candidates who will do their bidding. So, it wouldn’t surprise him if developers are behind the YIMBY movement as well. And he takes issue with the claim that so-called NIMBY’s are against all development.
“People for Housing? Who isn’t for housing?” he asked. “That’s kind of stupid. Everybody’s for housing, but it needs to be the right kind of housing.”
YIMBYs deny they coordinate with developers, noting their interests sometimes diverge.
While they support high-density housing, particularly near jobs and mass-transportation lines, YIMBYs oppose new developments that eliminate rent-controlled property, affordable units or replace apartments with single-family homes.
The pro-development San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation sued the city of Lafayette for approving 44 single-family homes near a transit stop in lieu of higher-density housing.
“We think it’s bad society has gotten anti-developer,” said Abundant Housing LA co-founder Vallianatos. “We think they provide a useful service. But we don’t work for them. We’re not doing their bidding.”
“Developers are people who make money building homes,” added Brian Hanlon, an Oakland housing activist who founded California YIMBY.
“YIMBYs are people who want to live in homes that they can afford.”
‘Action alerts’Abundant Housing LA issues regular action alerts calling on its 700 supporters to write letters and show up at city and neighborhood council meetings to support developments that increase the housing supply.
A letter-writing campaign supported a 452-unit development in downtown Los Angeles. Supporters also were urged to show up at a city Land Use and Planning Committee hearing on a 658-unit project in Marina del Rey.
Abundant Housing LA also rallied against demolishing a Venice four-plex to make way for a three-story house.
Orange County’s People for Housing, meanwhile, is partnering with local government and business groups to advocate for more housing. On Aug. 24, the Orange County Council of Governments, a countywide planning group, voted to allocate $15,000 for two pilot “citizens’ housing academies” designed to train others “to champion housing in their cities.”
The first such academy will take place in north county this fall or winter, with a south county session planned for the spring.
“We’re hoping that we’re able to have a dialogue and bring people to the conversation that have been left out, people that are supportive of having new housing,” said Marnie O’Brien Primmer, OCCOG executive director.
Rent too darn highThose attending a recent People for Housing gathering at an Anaheim brew pub said high housing costs are their chief motivation for supporting the Orange County YIMBY group. Just two of the 20 attendees said they work in the homebuilding industry.
Others included a 28-year-old civil engineer and his wife, an architectural consultant, who fret about having to move out of state to be able to put down roots and start a family; a single mother of two who’s seen friends move to Texas to find cheaper housing; and a community organizer who thinks it’s his moral duty to support more housing for low-income families.
“I find NIMBYism to be selfish and only concerned with their property values instead of the well-being of people in our society,” said Joese Hernandez, a community organizer with Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development.
Others want more transit-oriented housing that boosts Southern California’s reliance on rail and buses.
“We have to be more automobile free,” said Brian Yanity, 36, of Fullerton.
Hansburg, People for Housing co-founder, said she has a mailing list of about 100 supporters so far.
Not ‘trickle down’California YIMBY founder Brian Hanlon believes there’s a nexus between progressive and pro-business causes in the YIMBY movement.
Hanlon has raised just over $650,000, mostly from tech-industry executives worried the lack of housing will hamper growth.
But the Oakland housing activist said he also supports rent control and argues that building more housing near jobs and transit are essential to meeting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.
He bristles at the notion that YIMBYs back a “trickle-down” theory as if they are Reagan-era supply-side economists.
Increasing the housing supply does lower housing costs, he argued, and it reduces displacement of existing families by wealthier newcomers able to pay more for housing.
“Housing policy in California has been a disaster for young people for decades,” Hanlon said. “It’s gotten so bad that middle-class young people say there’s no future for me in California if we don’t get these housing costs under control. In order to do that, we need to build much more housing.”
Original Article can be found here on Orange County Register.