New Greenprint initiative threatens to undermine regional housing efforts

By Jeff Montejano

It’s no secret that Southern California housing costs have skyrocketed over the past year. According to the California Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing single-family home in Southern California’s five-county region increased by an astounding 18%, reaching an all-time high of $649,000. In turn, there’s been a decrease in the percentage of households that can afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home.

While low interest rates have certainly played a major role in the region’s costly housing market, the underlying driver continues to be a drastically low supply of homes. As part of the effort to increase the number of new homes in Southern California, the region’s designated planning organization recently voted to adopt a new housing plan that will require local cities and counties to plan for a massive increase in new housing.

As mandated by the state, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) approved a new regional housing plan that will require municipalities to collectively zone for over 1.3 million new homes by the end of the decade. Governed by an 86-member board made up of city and county elected officials, the region covered by SCAG is massive, encompassing all of Southern California, minus San Diego.

Despite numerous objections by local governments that SCAG’s new housing requirements are unfeasible, cities and counties now must update their general plans to ensure that there’s enough zoned land to build their assigned share of new homes. Local municipalities are also under added pressure due to Sacramento’s top-down approach to housing policy, which is fueled by a misguided focus on building expensive high-density housing similar to San Francisco.

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