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Region is falling behind on affordable home permits, UCR analysts say

Southern California cities and counties have fallen way behind in approving new housing needed to keep up with growth, especially for low- and moderate-income households, a new analysis of regional homebuilding shows.
With half the time needed to approve nearly 400,000 new homes already lapsed, local governments have approved 26% of the units needed in each income level under the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment process, according to a report by the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development.
The report, released Friday, April 12, points out that as of 2017, the region is halfway through the eight-year RHNA program.
“Ideally if you’re 50% through a program, then we should have solved 50% of the problem,” said Adam Fowler, director of research at the UCR center and one of the report’s authors. “We haven’t.”
And the region is even further behind when it comes to moderate- and low-income housing.
Of those homes already approved, 77% are affordable only to upper-income households, even though just 42% of the allotted housing is meant for affluent or wealthy households. Just 23% of approved housing thus far is affordable to moderate- and lower-income families, the report said.
The report is the latest the UCR center and Beacon Economics staff produced in conjunction with Next 10 , a San Francisco-based policy research center.
Beacon Economics, which runs the UCR center, analyzed state housing figures for 2014-17 for the six-county area covered by the Southern California Association of Governments, a region that accounts for just over half of the state’s population.
SCAG is made up of Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties.
Under the Regional Housing Needs Assessment process, SCAG determined how many homes each city and county need by October 2021 to keep up with growth. State law requires local governments to plan for needed housing at all income levels.
As of 2017, the UCR report found:

Local governments issued permits for just 9% of the low-income and very low-income units needed in the SCAG region. Very low-income households are those that earn 50% or less of the median income for each county; low-income households are those earning 51-80% of the median income.
Local governments issued permits for 16% of the units needed for moderate-income households, or those earning from 81% of the median income to 20% above the median.
Local governments issued permits for 52% of housing units needed for households earning 20% or more above the median income.
Orange County comes closest to meeting local housing needs, with 55% of its allotted housing approved. But again, most of that is for upper-income housing. Just under 50% of moderate-level housing needed had been approved, with 20% or less of low-income and very low-income housing approved.
In Los Angeles County, 35% of allotted housing had been permitted, but less than 15% of very low-, low- and moderate-income housing received permits.
Twenty-percent of San Bernardino County’s allotment and 15% of Riverside County’s allotment received approval, although approvals were around 20% for moderate-income housing and below 5% for low-income categories.

Numbers for 2018 are due to be released in June.
Measuring incomes varies across the six counties when median wages and housing costs are factored in, Fowler said. Los Angeles County has the worst imbalance, with five out of every six units permitted, 83%, in the “above moderate” income level.
Among the key reasons for the lack of housing production, especially for lower-income residents, are local opposition to development and local zoning and land-use laws “that are simply not conducive to developing affordable housing,” the UCR center determined after reviewing land-use data for UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.
For example, the median lot size in Southern California is 6,500 square feet, compared with 6,000 square feet in the rest of the state. Also, Southern California housing density is lower than in the rest of the state, allowing six houses per acre compared with seven per acre elsewhere in California.
“All of these characteristics … correlate with having a higher percentage of housing units permitted for above-moderate-income levels as compared to the rest of California,” the report said.
Fowler said in his statement the search for smaller, denser affordable housing is a challenge statewide, but especially in Southern California.
“A lot of jurisdictions are reporting very strong job growth,” Fowler said in an interview. “But part two of that conversation is, where are these people going to live?”


Related links

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