April 16, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Is the Big Housing Crunch Mostly Fiction?

By Tom Elias, Columnist

In some parts of California, there is definitely a housing crunch: small supplies of homes for sale, prices that escalate even when population has apparently stabilized and high prices that exclude most Californians as buyers.

But a massive, multi-million-unit shortage? Maybe not. At least, so suggests a scathing springtime report from the non-partisan acting state auditor.

“The (state) Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has made errors when completing its needs assessments because it does not sufficiently review and verify data it uses,” the report deadpanned.

Maybe that’s why as he campaigned in 2018, Gov. Gavin Newsom insisted California would need 3.5 million new housing units within 8 years just to keep up. That would have been more than 400,000 homes, condos and apartments every year, all supposedly getting snapped up as increased supply caused prices to fall.

None of this has happened. Housing construction never has topped 110,000 units per year during Newsom’s tenure, and a good share of those stand vacant. Newsom’s administration now says California needs 1.8 million new homes by 2030, a huge drop in his needs assessment after less than four years. What happened to the other half of what Newsom said was needed? Maybe the need never existed.

Those earlier numbers stemmed in part from expert estimates that California’s high growth would continue indefinitely. We now see that is not automatic. Fewer newcomers mean less need for new homes.

But the auditor’s report suggests even the 1.8 million housing units Newsom now says are needed by 2030 may be a gross exaggeration. One look at all the vacancy signs on apartment buildings and condominiums in major cities informally suggests this. But HCD does not lower its estimates of need.

The department’s regional need figures, in turn, produce threats of lawsuits from appointed state Attorney General Rob Bonta against city after city, demanding they grease development permits for hundreds of thousands of new units. The demand against Los Angeles, for example, is that it immediately OK about 250,000 new units. It’s as if Bonta has not seen the auditor’s report indicating the figures he uses are flawed. If he hasn’t read it, he is incompetent. If he has, he is dishonest.

How real are the numbers on which the estimates and the resulting legal threats rest? Here’s a bit more of what Auditor Michael S. Tilden reported in a dramatic document so far studiously ignored by politicians:

“HCD does not have adequate review processes to ensure that its staff members accurately enter data that it uses in the needs assessments.”

Which means leading state officials continually spout unsubstantiated, possibly phony, estimates of housing need. This should discredit any lawsuits Bonta threatens against cities.

For the auditor’s finding means the state housing agency estimates have no proven basis.

All this is vital to California’s future because the estimates are already forcing cities to approve much more housing than they need, reacting to lawsuit threats and the possible accompanying loss of millions in state grant money.

That, in turn, could produce future slums, or at least thousands of future short term rental and temporary corporate housing units. But it won’t help prospective home buyers get into markets where the median price now tops $800,000, in part because construction of just one average California unit costs more than $500,000.

The auditor in effect says that when Newsom and Bonta cite housing need figures, they essentially spread fake news.

For sure, when the state bases policy on unreliable or imagined information, it can do great harm. Just that appears likely soon, as passage of laws like the densifying 2021 measures known as SB 9 and SB 10 rested completely on HCD’s unsound information.

Far better would be for the state to concentrate instead on making housing out of converted office space vacated during the pandemic. That, at least, would not ruin any current neighborhoods.

In short, California will suffer irreparable long term harm if it keeps basing housing policy on false or unreliable information.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

in Opinion
Related Posts

New Program Can Help Protect Southern California Homes in the Event of an Earthquake

May 13, 2023

May 13, 2023

Residents Have Until May 31 To Apply For Seismic Retrofit Grants By Janiele Maffei, Chief Mitigation Officer for the California...

Venice Shorts: Tree Trimming Underway Thanks to the Vsa!

April 28, 2023

April 28, 2023

VSA Has Taken up the Task of Trimming Italian Stone Pine Trees. By Nick Antonicello Following the recent toppling of...

Venice Stakeholders Association’s Comments on Traci Park’s Broken Bridge Housing Promise

April 24, 2023

April 24, 2023

By Marc Ryavec I have been struggling with how to address the phenomenon that someone I and many others in...

Column: Tired OF Declinists? Some Enduring New California Positives

April 18, 2023

April 18, 2023

By Thomas D. Elias California has taken a beating lately, with (mostly Republican) governors of other states blasting many aspects...

Venice Shorts: The South Venice Blvd Encampment, Is It a Candidate for a City Cleanup?

April 14, 2023

April 14, 2023

One of the last of the large encampments closest to the beach, Venetians are hopeful help is on the way!...

Venice Shorts: Averill Defeats Tyminski 63%-37% to Become President of Venice Neighborhood Council

April 3, 2023

April 3, 2023

In second bid for top spot, surfer/photographer Brian Averill coasts to an easy win against Venice attorney and outgoing Vice-President...

Column: Install at LAX Tiny Homes From The State Grant

March 31, 2023

March 31, 2023

By Clark Brown On March 16  Governor Newsom announced in Sacramento, his first stop on his State of the State of...

Venice Shorts: Night & Day – Flower & Lincoln Transformed, Back in Business

March 28, 2023

March 28, 2023

By Nick Antonicello In what was a Venice eyesore just a few months ago has been transformed into a place...

Opinion: Please Vote for Daffodil Tyminski

March 25, 2023

March 25, 2023

This is Tom Williams, your neighbor at 1011 Main Street.  With the upcoming VNC election this Sunday, I wanted to reach...

Venice Shorts: Popular Local Jim Robb Seeks Vp Slot, Endorses Brian Averill for President of the VNC!

March 23, 2023

March 23, 2023

By Nick Antonicello  VENICE – In a twist of events longtime Community Officer Jim Robb will now be seeking the...

Venice Shorts: Tabor Family Legacy Amara Hordt Seeks Seat on VNC This Sunday!

March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023

Local realtor looks to follow a family legacy of engaged community involvement here in Venice By Nick Antonicello VENICE –...

Venice Shorts: Erica Moore, A Cheerleader For Venice In Her Run For Community Officer!

March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023

By Nick Antonicello VENICE – Local caterer Erica Moore is making a second run for the Venice Neighborhood Council, but...

Venice Shorts: Running Unopposed, Nico Ruderman’s Deep Dive Into Politics and Government Continues!

March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023

By Nick Antonicello VENICE – It has been an interesting two years of political action, involvement and advocacy for Nico...

Venice Shorts: “V” for Venice Volunteer

March 20, 2023

March 20, 2023

Media professional, local business owner and Dad, Eric Alan Donaldson is defined by his volunteerism and love of Venice. By...

Deborah Keaton, a Consensus Building Candidate for VNC Community Officer!

March 20, 2023

March 20, 2023

Creative director, global brander and private business owner seeks a general consensus on what’s best for Venice moving forward.  By...