NIMBY cities need to let homes get built


Huntington Beach needs to move on from its stalled implementation of state housing laws requiring cities to plan for and accommodate greater housing construction.

Practically, the city’s efforts to resist complying with state housing laws have proven to be costly failures.

In 2020 the city reached a settlement with the California Department of Housing and Community Development to build more units than were in its 2015 housing plan.

Left in the air were payments to the Kennedy Commission of Irvine, an affordable-housing advocate, for legal costs the commission said were a “catalyst” prodding the city to action.

On May 11, the Register reported, the 6th District Court of Appeal sided with the Commission and ordered the city to pay $3.5 million in legal fees.

The city needs to remember it must comply with state housing laws, especially the ones recently enacted to deal with the twin crises of homelessness and staggeringly high home and apartment prices, such as Senate Bills 9 and 10 from 2021 and Senate Bill 1333 from 2018.

“It’s pretty clear cities all have to do their part to address the homelessness and housing prices here in Orange County,” Kennedy Commission Executive Director Cesar Covarrubias told us. “Every city has a role to play. They all have to have strong policies to address the housing needs of all income segments. Housing in general just is not affordable to large segments of the population.”

He said average rents for most developments are in the $3,500 to $4,000 per month range for family units. Vast segments of Orange County’s population, and the population across the state for that matter, can’t pursue the California Dream of home ownership. “Supply needs to be available for all our income segments,” he said.

Potentially, the May 11 decision itself could be appealed to the California Supreme Court. The Huntington Beach City Council met May 16. Public Affairs Manager Jennifer Carey told us nothing has been disclosed, yet, about what was discussed in closed session. And so far an appeal has not been “agendized” for a future session.

The council should skip a further appeal and start meeting the obvious housing needs seen all around us.

Cities like Huntington Beach opposing state laws facilitating greater housing construction unfortunately helped create the housing shortage by restricting where and what types of housing can be built.

There are other drivers, to be sure, including state overregulation and abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act.

But city overregulation and restriction is a problem too.

Appeals to “local control” in the context of housing have always just been a nice-sounding defense of local government overreach and interference in the housing market.

We don’t like top-down edicts from the state either, but at least the state has tried to remove some long outdated land-use restrictions and nudged cities to do the same.

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