Who’s Really to Blame for Orange County’s Housing Affordability Crisis?

house-constructionThis past week, three separate media outlets sought my comment on Orange County’s housing affordability crisis and high-cost of living. The inquiries came on the heels of a host of news stories chronicling sky-high rents, the dismantling of homeless encampments in Anaheim, and the adequacy of wages paid by the county’s largest employers.

These were the questions news folks wanted answered: What is business doing to get more homes built? What is business doing to eliminate poverty? What is business doing to end homelessness?

Let’s get real.

Do we face a growing housing affordability and cost-of-living crisis here in Orange County and throughout California? You bet. Hardworking residents are struggling to make ends meet, and housing costs stand at the center of their paycheck-to-paycheck existence. Orange County Business Council has been arguing this for years and objective data backs it up.

A recent USC Gasden Family Forecast shows the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Orange County at a whopping $1,813 a month. For the typical renter, that’s a number that swipes more than half of their monthly take-home pay.

But the problem isn’t a lack of quality jobs or even skimpy paychecks. The problem is a lot of workers in a strong economy chasing too few available homes or apartments. That drives up housing costs and takes more of their paycheck.

Indeed, OCBC’s own Housing Scorecard reports that Orange County needs 65,000 more homes today to meet the housing needs of the people who already live and work here. But get this: Orange County has added only one new home for every 5.26 residents since 2010. And it’s not just Orange County that’s falling down on the job. Anaheim reportedly approved only 8 percent of its low-income housing needs, for example.

The crisis statewide is even more pronounced. A recent report found that more than 500 counties and cities failed to meet their mandated housing goals. So it’s no wonder that California has a housing shortage exceeding 3.5 million homes. That’s what you get when your population has increased every year since 1950, but you’ve failed every year since 1989 to build enough homes to meet the need.

So who’s to blame?

Homebuilders — in an industry that has fueled California’s economy for more than half a century — are as eager as ever to build the American Dream in the Golden State. But here’s the problem: lawmakers, regulators, local governments and anti-development activists — who already own their own home — won’t let them.

Overly restrictive land-use regulations, abuses of California’s environmental laws, local ballot box initiatives that neuter good planning, and city councils that won’t say “yes” are fueling the bottleneck in new-home delivery. Sure, some recent, minor actions were taken by the state legislature to streamline approvals, but ultimately local political leadership controls land use and housing decisions.

The systemic flaws that eat away at the paychecks of Orange County residents and threaten California’s economic prosperity are not caused by business but by the folks you elect to serve you in public office. The role of business is to offer goods and services, and thus create jobs, not to act as a substitute for local government or its elected officials who benefit from the significant tax revenue generated by business.

So here are the questions that need to be asked: What are your elected leaders doing to see that a good supply of affordable housing is built? What are your elected leaders doing to assure the end of homelessness in your community? What are your elected leaders doing to help grow good middle class jobs?

If you don’t like the answers, vote them out.

resident and CEO of the Orange County Business Council

Originally published in the Orange County Register.

Comments

  1. Just imagine all of the available housing, if we sent all of the illegals back…….. California alone has millions of illegals.

    • Strange…..Houston has an ample supply of “Illegals”, yet they have no trouble meeting the housing needs of their residents. It may, or may not be true (but it has been cited here multiple times), but Houston has in any recent year noted more housing starts than has the entire State of California.

      • Houston/Texas has pro-growth policies and much vacant land and room for more roads. California DOES NOT. Why build more in California when there is no room to carry more population and sustain quality of life. There are serious concerns about California State Government policy regarding Air, Water, Utilities, Education, Taxes, Crime, Homelessness and sustaining viable businesses. High property values is a result of supply and demand. If you cannot afford the cost of housing, you should look at Houston. Is there really any sense for California to build more homes/affordable housing? If so, we all suffer as more and more move here and the quality of life for California residents decline in spite of very high cost of living. If the media were to accurately inform the masses about the real status of California, people would not choose to live here!

  2. John Charles says

    OC needs 65,000 more homes? There should be no further development untill a corredponding infrastructure plan is formulated AND funded. Developers build 30% more houses than approved, take their money and leave the road congestion, school crowding, behind to be dealt with by the community. Western California has major areas that has reached its saturation point for further development.

  3. CaliExpat says

    NIMBY + “Greens” + Los Illegales + H1B = Housing shortage

    Still non additional water storage or management nor increased supply from desalination plants, though…

    Jesuit Jerry and his mariachi band of idiotas are all complete failures…

    Travis Allen for Governor…

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