Despite headlines about huge numbers of Californians fleeing to other states in search of a cheaper life, home prices remain stubbornly high in California.
In San Francisco, for example, the average home price is over $1.2 million, according to Zillow. That’s close to four times the average U.S. home value. So what is being done about it?
On the political front, some representatives in Sacramento think cutting the red tape on new construction could provide some relief.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat representing San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County, told KTLA that home prices in California have skyrocketed due to a housing shortage. This issue has plagued the state for decades.
“We basically stopped building housing about 50 years ago, and while there have been periods where we built more housing, it has generally been declining,” said Wiener, a member of the Senate Housing Committee.
“As our state grew from 15 million to 40 million people, our housing production dropped by two-thirds. So that math just doesn’t work. That is the core reason why housing is so expensive.”
Like his colleagues, Wiener has introduced multiple bills to ramp up housing production. Some of his bills, like SB 423, would help streamline and accelerate the housing permit process.
“We have been able to pass a few big ones to accelerate permitting, so people get their permits faster and to require cities to zone for more housing and more dense housing, near jobs and transit,” Wiener said.
Last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a package of bills into law that will create new housing units across the state. His office touted the signing of AB-2011 and SB 6 as a path to new housing units for low- and middle-income Californians, new jobs, and increased use of public transportation.
However, even with the updated housing legislation, it can take a long time before Californians start to see new units become available.
“Some of these laws are only a few years old, so it will take time to really see visible progress,” Wiener said.
“It takes time and it’s slow. It took us 50 years to dig into this hole and I’m not saying it will take us 50 years to dig out, but it’s not going to take just a few years. It’s a long-term endeavor.”
Even though lawmakers have made some progress regarding the state housing crisis, not everyone has been receptive.
This month, California Attorney General Rob Bonta took legal action against Huntington Beach over that city’s efforts to block state affordable housing laws.
“No one gets to pick and choose the laws they want to follow,” Bonta said during a virtual news conference to announce a lawsuit and motion for a preliminary injunction. “We provided plenty of ways for Huntington Beach to get into compliance. They ignored it.”
Before the legal filings, the Huntington Beach City Council voted to block the “builder’s remedy” law, which allows developers to construct housing projects without city approval in any municipality that does not have a housing plan as long as 20% of the new units are affordable.
In February, the city also passed a ban on Accessory Dwelling Units applications.
This is the second time the affluent beach community has been sued by the state for non complying with California’s housing laws.
The city settled the first lawsuit in 2020, the Associated Press reported.
As the state plans to build more housing, experts say California residents shouldn’t expect housing prices to drop significantly, if at all.
“We want to see rents go down in particular, we want to see home prices stabilized so that they’re not just continually exploding upwards and we want to have more housing subsidies for low-income people, whether it’s rebuilding housing that subsidized or we just give them vouchers to help them pay the rent,” Wiener said.
For California residents entering the real estate market, some homes sold for less than the asking price in January, especially in the Bay Area.
However, experts warn that the dramatic price drops and fizzling competition seen in the Bay Area may not hit the rest of the state the same way.