California Housing: Building a More Affordable Future

Report #267, March 2022

OVERVIEW

California needs to build millions of additional homes to safely house its population, and the state must do more to increase the development of and access to affordable housing, says the state’s independent government watchdog in a new report.

In California Housing: Building a More Affordable Future, the Little Hoover Commission offers seven targeted recommendations state leaders can take action on immediately to help address California’s housing affordability crisis.

“The consequences of the state’s limited supply of housing are devastating,” says Commission Chair Pedro Nava. “Prices are skyrocketing and families are struggling. The state can and should be doing more to address this crisis.”

In its report, the Commission finds that state funding for affordable housing has traditionally focused on rental housing. While the state should continue its support of renters, the Commission urges the state to expand its affordable housing strategy—in policy and funding—to put a greater emphasis on affordable home ownership. To ensure that this strategy is not counterproductive, the state must also include an emphasis on increasing housing supply.

“The state should jumpstart affordable housing production by treating the state’s housing crisis with the same urgency as the state’s wildfire crisis,” says Cathy Schwamberger, who chaired the Commission’s subcommittee on affordable housing. “This includes creating targeted working groups to tackle logistical and policy challenges and building in CEQA flexibility to expedite projects.”

The Commission also found that the state’s organization of its housing functions is inefficient. Spread across four different agencies and divided under the purviews of the governor and the state treasurer, the current organization results in confusion over responsibilities that leads to gaps in services. To help California craft a better affordable housing strategy and improve operations, the Commission calls on the state to consolidate housing functions. The state should also consider formalizing a strategic working relationship between the two constitutional officers and the agencies they oversee.

The Commission learned that California’s process for determining how much and where housing needs to be built fails to account for how much housing, particularly affordable housing, is actually built. To address this challenge, the Commission recommends that that the state reconsider how it measures local governments’ progress toward housing goals to include how many units are actually constructed.

The Commission also outlines additional reforms to include proactively enforcing housing requirements, filling housing data and analysis gaps, and investing in shared equity models.

“The state’s efforts to address its affordable housing shortage are often bogged down by a lack of political will or by Californians themselves,” says Commissioner Dion Aroner, a member of the study’s subcommittee. “This report identifies focused actions that provide state leaders a pathway forward.”

Written testimony from hearing witnesses can be found in the corresponding event agenda.

Relevant Reports

(Report #258, April 2021)
(Report #165, May 2002)

In the News

Events

  • Hearing on Creating Affordable Housing: The State and Local Relationship (Part 3)
    Public Hearing: September 23, 2021
    Agenda / Testimony / Video
  • Hearing on Creating Affordable Housing: The State and Local Relationship (Part 2)
    Public Hearing: September 9, 2021
    Agenda / Testimony / Video
  • Hearing on Creating Affordable Housing: The State and Local Relationship (Part 1)
    Public Hearing: August 26, 2021
    Agenda / Testimony / Video