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  • Writer's pictureTrudy Stambook

Econometer: Will State Legal Action Spur More Housing?

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

Article originally published on San Diego Union Tribune:

Encinitas was told by state officials it needed to abolish, or change extensively, an anti-growth law passed by voters in 2013. The move is part of a growing effort by California to force communities to comply with state housing laws. Huntington Beach was sued by California in January for not complying with state law to allow enough homebuilding to accommodate its growing population.

Question: Will the state taking legal action against communities actually result in more housing?

Phil Blair, Manpower

YES: Unfortunately, if that is what it takes. In a city of villages, we need to all take our fair share of YIMBY (yes in my back yard.) People forget that two-thirds of all of San Diego’s growth is our own children and grandchildren wanting to live in our community. We need affordable and workforce affordable housing throughout the county, not just in pockets.

Kelly Cunningham, San Diego Institute for Economic Research

NO: Instead of increasing costs on cities and adding more regulations and requirements, communities would be better served by unburdening their efforts to address their own housing needs. It is irrational to impose more requirements by a faraway central planning state government in Sacramento. State regulations, including burdensome environmental rules, drive up the costs of construction and deter new building and development. Massive statewide deregulation would better serve efforts especially to increase housing for middle-income families.

David Ely, San Diego State University

YES: Expanding the supply is key to solving the housing crisis in California. Removing barriers that thwart the building of high-density housing or impede rezoning will stimulate construction by private companies. Removing legal barriers can be especially impactful since they can be the most difficult type of obstacle to overcome. However, while the state taking legal action may be a step in the right direction, it will not be enough to solve the housing shortage.

Gina Champion-Cain, American National Investments

YES: Codifying NIMBY (not in my backyard) policy through local legislation is the most egregious form of development obstruction. Law, whether enacted through vote or by elected officials, is the most powerful tool deployed against residential construction. The state is advancing from threats to meaningful action against the forces aligned to prevent increased housing stock. Each barrier to construction removed will lead directly to more housing. The state's action should be supported.

Alan Gin, University of San Diego

YES: Restrictions on construction will limit the amount of new housing that can be built in cities with those restrictions. The state taking legal action will force those cities to reconsider the restrictions. The cities will argue that the limits are to maintain a certain quality of life. But they run counter to the idea that all cities in the region should contribute to solving the housing affordability problem in San Diego, which would be helped by more housing.

James Hamilton, UC San Diego

YES: The Encinitas measure will restrict and delay new construction and is bad public policy. That said, I am uncomfortable with the state dictating policies for every community, even in cases where I agree with what the state is trying to do. Leaving individual communities free to chart their own course is the best way to find out which policies really work and to protect Americans’ freedom to control our own destiny.

Gary London, London Moeder Advisors

YES: I am heartened by the state taking an aggressive role in addressing housing matters at the community level. But even with this, I fear that the housing shortage is so deep as to be perpetual. State mandates relieve some pressure from local elected officials who are conflicted in their dual recognition that we need housing, but that many of their constituents are not on board.

Norm Miller, University of San Diego

NO: Communities, like Encinitas, may agree to back away from voter (Prop A) approvals, and 30 feet height limits, but residents will figure out other ways to defeat or slow down housing proposals, i.e., pointless California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits. Unless the state takes direct control over approvals, we will see only modest progress toward allowing more density and taller structures that make housing more affordable. “Traffic!” will be the mantra. Any politician supporting more density will likely be voted out of office.

Jamie Moraga, IntelliSolutions

YES: It could. Measures like Proposition A can empower NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard). Encinitas remains the only city in the county without a state-certified housing plan. A single city shouldn’t be absolved of a reasonable amount of housing obligations. The voters of Encinitas will need to resolve this issue so that it results in a win-win.

Austin Neudecker, Rev

YES: The Department of Housing and Community Development is attempting to loosen the restrictions that artificially restrict housing supply and drive prices up. Legal measures should be a last resort, but residents of Encinitas should proactively address the issue and amend or replace the proposition. We should look at the larger picture: a lack of affordable housing stifles economic growth.

Bob Rauch, R.A. Rauch & Associates

YES: The way to solve the housing shortage is to hold cities accountable. Local government policies have failed to deliver housing in sufficient quantities. Those who vote for density are voted out of office as citizens against virtually everything (CAVES) use those votes to move practical politicians out of office. Politicians need political cover and the state needs to unleash some legal energy.

Lynn Reaser, Point Loma Nazarene University

YES: In recognizing that local policies can thwart state efforts to increase housing, the state is becoming serious. Gov. Newsom has indicated a goal of producing 3.5 million additional housing units by 2035, a goal that will be impossible without local support. Localities could be held accountable for housing goals, with the possibility that transportation funding could be withheld if goals are missed. Sacramento is sending a strong message to local governments: Support more housing.

Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health

Not participating this week.

Have an idea for an EconoMeter question? Email me at

Follow me on Twitter: @PhillipMolnar

Copyright © 2019, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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