For countless college students, buying a home in California is a far-and-away, out-of-reach dream with the current plight of the housing market. For students residing with family who don't own a home, this outlook is especially dim. This leads to many students facing the prospects of being stuck in the vicious cycle of renting forever, forgoing a time-tested and proven method to build generational wealth via homeownership, or moving out of state. Neither choice is optimal, especially for those who have known California as their only home.
A fact sheet from The Public Policy Institute of California states that more than a third (34.0%) of state residents were poor or near poor in 2019, and COVID-19 only increased this number in 2020. Out of low-income residents in the state, 56% of them use the majority of their paychecks to meet surging rent prices according to Cal Matters. Orange County isn’t immune to this issue: the OC Business Council reported that from 2010 to 2018, OC added only one new home for every 5.6 residents.
After avoiding recall in September’s election, Governor Gavin Newsom signed both Senate Bill 9 and 10 on Sept. 18, which will ultimately put an end to California’s “single-family zoning” law that’s been in place for 105 years. Single-family zoning is the limitation of only allowing one housing unit to be built on a piece of land. It both creates and conserves Southern California’s suburbia that prevents many from finding homes in the state.
Single-family zoning also has deeply racist roots, making the passing of SB9 a victory for equality across the state. It was first championed in Berkeley in 1916, by a real estate developer named Duncan McDuffie. His goal was to stop non-white families and a Black-owned dance hall from moving into a neighborhood that bordered his newly-built developments.
McDuffie believed non-white people and businesses would lower the value of his properties. Non-white people were additionally not allowed to buy or rent property in his developments and many others like them – a form of systematic discrimination that still plays a role in the ongoing wealth disparity of non-white Americans from their white counterparts today, though the practice has been since banned. This is the same disparity SB9 is now hoping to address.
SB9 allows residents to build up to four units, or two duplexes, on their owned property. Cal Matters reported that some limitations the bill includes are: residency for at least three years after developing the additional units and power to veto from the city if the development is a threat to the public's safety and health. The bill also puts historic districts and fire hazard zones off limits.
Smaller apartment complexes containing up to 10 units can now be built in single-family zoning neighbors that are located near transit or in urban infill areas under SB10, essentially opening up more land for multifamily housing.
Critics of the state’s upcoming housing transformation include homeowners, who believe that both of these bills will ruin homeownership in California. Some fear this will lead to further gentrification, rather than help those who were historically disenfranchised.. Others are concerned about the lack of control of new developments from local governments, and argue that there is no guarantee this will make living in California less costly.
“Even worse, there are no provisions in SB9 that require new housing to be affordable, continuing the cycle of the construction of new units that are out of reach for many working-class families,” stated League of California Cities Executive Director Carolyn Coleman in an interview with Cal Matters.
While the editorial board recognizes that additional legislation must be passed to reassure these new dwellings will be more affordable for all residents, we applaud this important step taken by the state to fight the housing crisis, provide Californians with relief and hope for future, and atone for generations of systematic discrimination that deprived non-white people of the opportunity to achieve a fundamental aspect of the American dream. Furthermore, we believe that adding more available units will eventually succeed in driving down housing costs through supply and demand.
The Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley conducted a study that revealed the approval of these two bills could potentially add 700,000 new housing units in California. Although this includes the number of people who don't meet owner- occupancy requirements, which would decrease the potential by six percent, we believe that any additional units for housing paves way for change in the right direction.
“This bill is about opening the door for more families to pursue their version of the California Dream — whether that means building a home for an elderly parent to live in, creating a new source of income, buying that first house, or being welcomed into a new neighborhood,” said State Senate leader Toni Atkins, quoted by California City News.
The editorial board believes the advantages of SB9 and SB10 outweigh the potential issues that some homeowners have emphasized, such as taking away the character of neighborhoods or deriving from Southern California’s suburban allure. We stand for affordable housing and believe that a price decrease in renting or buying is financially necessary. However, this can’t be done without SB9 and SB10, reassuring us that new homes will populate our state.
The Coast Report Editorial Board consists of the editor in chief and section editors. One member of the editorial board writes the editorial and this rotates throughout the semester.
Editorial topics are pitched by all members of the board and a single topic is selected for each editorial. Each editorial board member votes on their position on the selected topic and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a tie on the first vote, editorial board members engage in continued discussion and state the reasons for their initial vote. A second vote is then taken and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a second tied vote, the editorial position will be decided at the discretion of the editor in chief.
For this editorial, the initial board vote on the issue resulted in a 6-0 majority of the board voting “yes” to the question "do you support the new California law that ends single-family zoning?" Coast Report publishes voting results to promote transparency.