Housing costs, state control remain concerns
PUBLISHED: September 24, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. | UPDATED: September 24, 2020 at 6:02 a.m
Although the Covid-19 pandemic sidetracked state leaders from attacking the housing shortage, a new poll shows that Bay Area voters are still concerned the crisis is getting deeper.
The poll for FSB Public Affairs found a majority of Bay Area voters surveyed believe the crisis is most severe in this region: 95 percent agreed the state is facing a serious housing crunch. A majority also believe local officials should have the right to control new development in their cities.
“Voters want to retain local control,” said Frank Rizzo, president of Sacramento-based FSB Public Affairs, a consultant group that works with developers and other businesses. “That’s where there’s a real disconnect.”
The results mirror a January survey of Bay Area voters done by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and this news organization. Nearly 9 in 10 voters said homelessness and the cost of housing were extremely or very serious problems. Three-quarters of those questioned said the quality of life in the Bay Area had gotten worse during the last five years.
Together, the polls highlight a growing concern with escalating home prices and rents, along with the growing population sheltered in makeshift encampments, RVs and cars.
The poll found 8 in 10 people surveyed believe affordability is the biggest housing issue in the Bay Area, and more than 7 in 10 felt the problem was getting worse. More than half believe the pandemic will decrease demand for housing in cities and near job centers.
About half said the region was building too little housing. The most cited reasons for the shortage of new housing in their community were the high cost of buying land and construction (50 percent), followed by neighborhood opposition (19 percent) and local fees and bureaucracy (18 percent).
Voters also showed strong support for Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) goals: two-thirds said more affordable housing for teachers and seniors would benefit the Bay Area, and a similar percentage favored high rise apartments near transit stations.
But the majority also preferred their city councils to manage housing development. Nearly two-thirds of people said they would oppose a state candidate fighting for more housing in their community if they ignored the concerns of local residents and environmentalists.
“Voters in the Bay Area do not want to see Sacramento dictate housing policy,” Rizzo said.
Housing advocates argue that development decisions made by local city councils have stymied residential development in California for generations, creating suburban sprawl, traffic woes, and a dearth of new homes and apartments near booming job centers in Silicon Valley and Southern California.
The poll also showed strong support for several housing bills that failed to pass during this legislative session, including requirements for developers to build a certain percentage of affordable units in new projects, allowing residential development on commercial sites, and making it easier to build in-law units.
The survey of 800 voters from nine Bay Area counties by Core Decision Analytics for FSB Public Affairs was taken in late August. The survey results have a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
California YIMBY spokesman Matt Lewis said the results are similar to other recent polls showing a growing support for pro-housing measures, such as making it easier to build an accessory dwelling unit.
But residents have strong feelings about keeping development decisions local, even if that means fewer homes are built. “We haven’t bridged that gap,” he said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in February a renewed focus on housing policy, but the coronavirus pandemic shifted state focus and resources away from housing measures. Lawmakers cobbled together a package to slow evictions caused by the declining economy, and came up with $600 million in emergency relief for homeless residents under Project Homekey.
But several housing bills failed, including measures making it easier to split lots and develop new homes, and loosen development rules in single-family home communities.
Newsom told reporters in early September he was open to a special session but it should be based “upon a specific agenda, a specific criteria, and necessity.”