The State Board of Equalization’s Work Group on Affordable Housing met October 19 in Southern California for an informational hearing on housing issues, with the goal of contributing to the state’s efforts to solve California’s housing shortage.
The six-hour event, held at Santa Monica City Hall, was the fourth hearing by the work group and focused on addressing the housing crisis in Southern California.
BOE Chair Antonio Vazquez said the work group will prepare a report with recommendations that can be shared with the governor, state lawmakers, and others.
“I look forward to preparing a blueprint of incentives for affordable housing,” Vazquez said at the conclusion of the hearing.
Deputy State Controller Hasib Emran, representing Controller Malia Cohen, noted that the state needs to roughly triple its annual housing development to meet its stated production goal.
Speakers at the hearing included state legislators, county assessors, local government officials, members of nonprofit housing groups, academics, and others. Most of the testimony involved descriptions of the witnesses’ efforts to increase housing through various means, including legislative changes.
Orange County Assessor Claude Parrish urged the state to consider providing low-interest loans to homebuyers, and he added that drug addiction should be addressed, as it is a major cause of homelessness.
Christopher Koontz, director of community development for the city of Long Beach, said there is a need for middle-income housing as well as subsidized housing for low-income Californians.
Shane Phillips, director of housing policy and research at the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy, agreed, and said the state will not meet its goals unless it addresses unsubsidized housing. Research shows that having market-rate housing available ends up making lower-income housing more available, Phillips said. He added that the state should be concerned about the cost associated with building housing.
“Developers will build market-rate housing at no cost to the public, if we let them,” Phillips added. “They don’t require any public subsidies.”
Noah Marty, a senior legislative aide to Assembly Member Jessie Gabriel, discussed “bureaucratic red tape” that thwarts housing development in California.
Antonio Castro Jr., chief appraiser in the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office discussed the welfare exemption and offered recommendations for expediting the process for approving claims for the exemption.
Assembly Member Rick Chavez Zbur discussed his proposal to create a new rent-subsidy program that would provide Californians with up to $2,000 a month for two years. He said this would cost approximately $500 million per year, which would be far cheaper than waiting to pay for various programs after people become homeless.
State Senator Ben Allen praised the BOE for holding the hearing.
“You have a really important role to play, because taxation policy is intertwined here …,” Allen said. “I think there’s not a lot of understanding, half the time, in the Legislature about the work of this board, and yet the issues that you’re working on … end up intertwining in so many meaningful ways, when it comes to housing and housing production.”