When housing production falls short where people live, work and play, the quality of life for all residents in our communities is diminished. The lack of quality, affordable housing can exacerbate social issues such as homelessness, poor educational attainment and mental and physical health conditions.
According to a recent survey by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, California will need to build 180,000 homes per year through 2025 to meet demand. Currently, approximately 80,000 homes are built each year. When housing supply does not meet demand, prices increase.
Awareness of California’s affordable housing crisis has increased exponentially in recent years as home prices and rents have skyrocketed, in many cases locking even middle-income families out of the housing market. For low-income families, the implications are even more severe, as they may be forced to forgo necessities or live in substandard or overcrowded conditions in order to afford shelter. The lack of housing supply is also one of the leading causes of homelessness across the state, as vulnerable populations struggle to compete for housing at the low end of the market.
For most communities, housing is much more than a place for residents to sleep at night. Collections of homes create social networks. Neighborhoods can be an important part of people’s identity and self-image. For some, it is also a financial asset, and often the largest single investment a family may have.
For communities of color, equalizing homeownership rates in the United States can substantially impact the racial wealth gap1, decreasing the wealth gap by 16 percent for the Black-White wealth gap and 41 percent for the Latino-White wealth gap. As the housing crisis continues, it will likely exacerbate inequality by making it more difficult for historically disadvantaged communities to become homeowners.
While most everyone agrees that California needs more housing, the conversation often gets complicated when you begin to discuss how, where and why. And yet, it is the how, where and why that will shape our economy, our environment and people’s daily lives for decades to come.
The housing crisis is not a problem that any one group or community can fix alone. It will require the building industry and governments at all levels to work with residents to address the many barriers that prevent construction.
There are numerous factors contributing to the lack of housing in California communities. One reason is the difficulty many city and county leaders face when planning and approving potential housing developments. Often housing proposals spark an emotionally charged community debate centered more on differing values and a lack of trust than the factual merits and impacts of the housing project itself. Local elected officials and staff leadership then face an uphill battle, expending limited resources, which all too often leave all parties involved frustrated and divided.
The Institute for Local Government (ILG) created this toolkit to help communities engage in authentic discussions to address barriers and to think creatively about housing as a way to ensure that all of California’s residents can thrive. It seeks to provide an understanding of barriers and roles and a structured framework for local agencies to build a different community engagement approach. This toolkit encourages the reader to think through a series of considerations laid out through ILG’s TIERS (Think, Initiate, Engage, Review and Shift) Public Engagement Framework in order to develop a public engagement approach and outcome that most closely aligns with the goals, timeline, resources and constraints of the proposed housing development.