Accessibility, Affordability, and the Allocation of Housing Targets to California’s Local Governments

Research Team: Nicholas J. Marantz (lead), Huixin Zheng, Jae Hong Kim, and Doug Houston

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: California's Housing Element law requires the allocation of housing targets to local governments. These targets should align with long-range regional strategies to concentrate growth in transit rich areas, but currently little evidence exists about the effectiveness of housing allocation schemes for achieving accessibility and affordability. Indeed, there is some evidence that – to date – the law has not served these goals effectively. In 2018 California Senate Bill (SB) 828 significantly amended the Housing Element law, conferring additional authority on the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) to determine housing targets. Moreover, SB 50 (introduced in 2019) proposes to require HCD to identify "jobs-rich" areas, in which local governments would be required to allow relatively dense residential development. SB 50 proposes to also raise the minimum allowable density for residential development in areas close to transit stops. State legislators and administrators have very little information to evaluate the current housing target allocation process or its interaction with the regulatory scheme contemplated by SB 50.

Project Description: This study assesses whether the state's housing allocation process achieves the state’s goals of promoting housing development in areas accessible to transit, jobs, and socioeconomic opportunities. The first analysis compares the mechanism that the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) uses to allocate housing units to local governments with two simpler alternatives. For all three allocation mechanisms, the researchers assess whether the resulting allocations align with the goal of promoting housing development in areas with high social mobility and near transit and jobs. The investigators find that SCAG’s allocation method may be unnecessarily complex, and that simpler allocation methods – which are less susceptible to technical difficulties and political wrangling – could achieve the state’s policy objectives with less administrative burden. The second analysis, based on case studies of two Southern California cities, provides preliminary evidence that current enforcement mechanisms adopted in California may be insufficient to ensure that local governments accommodate their housing targets and promote housing development near transit and job centers.

Status: Completed

Budget: $83,804

Policy Brief(s):