Saturday, February 11, 2017

$4,500 to rent a San Francisco apartment. What are California leaders doing?

The Sacramento Bee reports:
Her rent jumped from $610 to $895, and Brianna Reynolds was out on the street.

The increase last September wasn’t particularly high compared with other rental horror stories that have become commonplace across California, but the 37-year-old mother of two was already barely hanging on financially. There was no way she and her husband could afford the nearly 47 percent rent increase for their one-bedroom apartment in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, Reynolds said.

“It used to be the working poor could survive with the rent prices, but even now people who have full-time jobs are not able to afford the rent,” Reynolds said on an afternoon this week before starting her night shift at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, where she works as a custodian. “I have a good job, but all the rents are getting pushed up, even in neighborhoods where you can usually find affordable housing. It’s leaving people, including me, with no options. It’s overwhelming. It’s frustrating. It’s scary.”

Reynolds’ challenges are similar to those of many low- and middle-income families across California. Her family is now separated, staying with relatives or in a motel. The housing crisis is driving more people into poverty than ever before, a phenomenon state housing experts and advocates attribute to a shortage of homes and skyrocketing demand.

California consistently ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for poverty when factoring in the high cost of housing. Home ownership has fallen to its lowest rate since the 1940s, forcing a greater share of Californians into the state’s tightening rental market, which itself has reached historic highs. Rents average more than $2,000 per month – more than double the national average. Median rents range from a low of $1,100 in parts of the Central Valley to a high of $4,500 in San Francisco. Eighty-four percent of renter households are considered “burdened,” spending 30 percent to 50 percent or more of annual income on rent, according to a new assessment of California’s housing crisis from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Yet a solution has for years confounded Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature.

There's more:
Brown’s pick to lead the state housing department, Ben Metcalf, said last year that “the state of California is facing a housing crisis of historic proportions,” a point that served as the backdrop for Brown’s disputed proposal last year aimed at making it easier to build affordable housing. He proposed to overhaul the regulatory process for housing construction, significantly reduce the per-unit cost of about $330,000 and fast-track new affordable housing development from San Diego to Santa Rosa.

Brown’s plan included a rare pot of general fund money – $400 million – to sweeten the deal. The idea was to allow affordable-housing developers to bypass public hearings in areas already zoned for affordable projects that have undergone extensive review. Community pressures and interest groups often stall or defeat local housing projects, he said last year.

But a coalition of environmental groups and construction trades unions killed the proposal before it ever came close to reality. Representatives from the Sierra Club and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California said it would have undercut local land use regulations, environmental protections and fair wage provisions for unionized workers.

Don't you be a science denier: the facts are California is run by a rent-seeking coalition that hates middle income and poor people.