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Want Affordable Housing? Just Build More of It

Urban California should emulate Tokyo, which ensured the supply of dwellings stayed ahead of population growth.

After years of dithering and hoping the problem would go away, California is finally taking steps to address its housing crisis. In 2017 the state passed a series of bills designed to encourage the construction of new affordable housing -- streamlining the regulatory approval process, providing more state funding and cracking down on local governments that fall short of their housing goals. Now, state Senator Scott Wiener is pushing a new more aggressive package of legislation.

The most dramatic change Weiner would make, which is similar to a parallel effort in the state assembly, would be to force cities to allow dense housing development near public transit.

Sadly, the bill is already encountering opposition from homeowners’ groups. It is also receiving pushback from the Sierra Club, which offered the rationale that allowing dense housing near public transit would cause political support for transit to drop. Other opponents claim that allowing new development would raise rents -- a dubious assertion that is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely.

This opposition shows what an uphill battle it will be to get dense housing in California. That’s a shame, because density, combined with efficient public transit, is a great way to make a city affordable.

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