By Jackson Stromberg
I am dreaming.
The California Legislators and bureaucrats working on housing would look to the future (say 8 years for the next cycle and 16 years for the following cycle). They envision what may happen, take responsibility and act accordingly.
There is a political steamroller coming from Sacramento to deny local input on housing on the theory that any kind of housing whatsoever is always good, and they know best.
The system is eager to build, build and build. Everyone profits: contractors, plumbers, carpenters, developers, mega investors, money managers, appliance salesmen and on and on.
These politics are indeed powerful. The issue that should be honestly addressed is how this will play out in the long run.
The opportunity for new homeowners will be squeezed out in favor of a landlord/tenant model. There goes the American dream. There goes my dream.
Most of Sacramento’s mandated new housing will be occupied not by owners, but by tenants paying market rates or, for a very select few, being subsidized.
Subprime mortgages generated by the last building frenzy ended with the catastrophic financial collapse of our country in 2008. These subprime mortgages financed the build, build, building mania and all the profiteering of those days. And disaster ensued.
Today’s rental obligations will probably not, like the subprime mortgages of old, become derivatives, collateralized, sliced and diced and traded worldwide. But the effect will be much the same.
In the great majority of homes there would be tenants with absentee and distant landlords. Tenants and city officials would have no one to appeal to except hired managers with no vested interest in the properties.
Even the remaining homeowners will find their dreams tarnished. In Marin and throughout California, the bloated housing quotas, called regional housing need allocations (RHNA), will foist upon us tenant complexes and multi-story rental quadraplexes with no on-site parking.
The community costs incurred from these unfunded mandates for fire departments, police, schools, sewers, and intolerable parking and traffic congestion will be imposed on its citizens.
And there will be significant negative impacts on everyone’s quality of life.
We are facing bloated numbers. Freddie Mac estimated in 2021 that the entire country was short some 3.8 million housing units. Gov. Gavin Newsom has floated the number at 3.5 million for California alone.
A 2021 state audit found that the Housing and Community Department (HCD) has been using defective methodologies in determining its inflated numbers.
The 6th cycle (2023-2031) RHNA numbers are on average 600% higher than the numbers in the last 8-year cycle.
It does not have to be this way. Our people in Sacramento do not have to be so militant and combative.
For example, state Attorney General Rob Bonta has formed what he calls a “strike force,” using taxpayers’ money to beat down the homeowning taxpayers in our cities.
Cities are concerned that there will be retaliation with fines and the like if they join lawsuits pending or planned against the state.
The chief legal officer of California has taken it upon himself to thwart access to our courts. This is unconstitutional, particularly when the perpetrator is our own attorney general. We are entitled to sue the state and have our day in court.
In my dreams, it would be recognized that it is irresponsible to develop new legislation and take actions justified on distorted facts.
Our legislators, the HCD staff and other bureaucrats would stop imposing unreasonable, unfunded mandates. They would engage in realistic planning. There would be no more simplistic top down, one-size-fits-all mind sets.
We citizens in California can continue to dream. Where there is responsible action, there is hope.
Jackson Stromberg is a resident of Mill Valley in Marin County.