California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has fired the first shot in a battle with cities over affordable housing. During his first week as governor, he threatened to withhold transportation funding if cities don’t comply with the “fair share” housing law. A few weeks later, he raised the ante with a first-of-its kind lawsuit against Huntington Beach. The battle pits the Governor against a pervasive NIMBYism that prevents the building of affordable housing in many of California’s high-priced neighborhoods.
“Fair Share” Housing Law
The “fair share” housing law was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1967. Under the law, cities must come up with a plan “for the housing needs of all economic segments of the community.”
According to an investigative report by the Los Angeles Times in 2017, it only took about five months for state officials to realize that cities were ignoring the law. Some of those cities may have complied with the “planning” part, but didn’t actually follow through with those plans. Many also failed to submit reports to the state on whatever it was they were doing.
Lawmakers have passed various additional laws to try to force cities and counties into complying, but that has turned into a massive paperwork nightmare, according to the Times. As former state housing official, Timothy Coyle, says — the law was “destined to fail.” (1)
Now the Governor is facing off with cities that don’t do their “fair share” to help solve the housing crisis. He said in a statement, “many cities are making herculean efforts to meet this crisis head on. But some cities are refusing to do their part… and willfully stand in violation of California law.”
Governor Goes Head-to-Head with NIMBY’s
Newsom is vowing to make those cities accountable. And, Huntington Beach is on that list.
The Los Angeles Times says, Huntington Beach and the state have been involved in a standoff for quite some time over affordable housing. The city had adopted a plan in 2013 to allow taller buildings with more compact units including some for low-income tenants. But, residents complained. Many expressed concerns about crime, traffic, and what they called “monstrosity developments.” The city responded by cutting the number of units in the plan. That also violated state law.
California Sues Huntington Beach
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is now suing the city for “standing in the way of affordable housing production and refusing to meet regional housing needs.” Newsom says, the state tried to work with the city but the city “willfully refused” to include more affordable housing in its plan. He says he won’t tolerate NIMBYism.
A law passed last year allows the state to revoke a city’s housing plan if it doesn’t comply with state housing requirements, and makes it possible for the state to sue that city. As the L.A. Times points out, more than two dozen jurisdictions have violated the state law, so the lawsuit against Huntington Beach may be the first one of several.
Huntington Beach is also fighting back with a counter suit. It claims, state housing laws are unconstitutional. We’ll stay on top of this story, here on Real Estate News for Investors.
(1) CA Housing Crisis: LA Times