Guest Opinion | David Azevedo: Why is Building Market Rate Housing Critical to Solving the Housing and Homelessness Crisis in California?

Published : Monday, January 13, 2020 | 5:35 AM

When I look at the root causes of homelessness and lack of affordability, I see a dramatic lack of the number of homes near jobs. In California, we have 1.3 million fewer housing units than we need.

What happens because of this mismatch? Almost every “market-rate” unit built in Pasadena today has a very high sales price or rent. If California had enough housing near jobs, we would have a balanced market which would create naturally-occurring affordable housing. All people would have choices about where to live, not just wealthy people.

Why is the supply of housing near jobs so much lower than it should be?

There are many reasons, but an important one is NIMBYism–in other words, the movement to say “not in my backyard” to any and all new development. Adding more housing near transit is a critical issue for the environment and social justice, yet people (including “progressives”) band together to block new housing near transit.

Monday night’s Council Agenda is a perfect example of this. There is a proposed new development at 253 S. Los Robles that would add 90 new units, including 8 very low-income units, only four blocks from the Metro Gold Line Station. But the project is opposed by anti-housing activists, who will be speaking out at the Council meeting on Monday in an effort to stop the project.

Everyone wants the housing problem to be solved, but no one is willing to solve it in their neighborhood. Yet, if we are to solve this problem, it will need to be solved in places just like this –on streets that are already densely developed with tall residential buildings.

Why does it have to be a “market-based” solution?

We could decide to subsidize the development of all 1.3 million units, but that would cost between $250 and $300 billion dollars, money the state does not have.

Why should developers make a profit from solving this problem?

Developers make a profit because development is risky. If they can’t make a profit, they won’t build. They are usually educated people with access to money, and they will go do something else instead.

In exchange for the profit, developers are at least building something. If you get mad at developers, also get mad at landowners, landlords, and all the people who sell you goods and services – they are also taking profits.

Shouldn’t I have a say in what happens in my neighborhood?

Absolutely! Pasadena has worked hard to come up with a thoughtful approach to development policies such as zoning, and Pasadena has the added benefit of a Design Commission that works hard to protect the architectural quality and character of the city.

But opposing developments near transit adds to the overall cost of housing in Pasadena, and also harms our ability to address climate change.

Regardless of where you stand on development, you should agree that it’s absolutely unfair for the Pasadena City Council to bypass the Design Commission and other community-driven zoning policies to alter widely accepted metrics in order to kill this one project. As a resident who lives two blocks from 235 S. Los Robles, I proudly stand behind this project and its potential to help solve the housing crisis
David Azevedo is a Pasadena resident.

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