California Housing:

Joe Guzzardi
3 min readMay 5


Newsom’s Reality Check

The race to pave over what little remains of California’s open space continues. In 2017, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed “15 good bills,” as he put it, to ease the persistent affordable housing shortage in California. Brown, surrounded by advocates and real estate barons, said: “It is a big challenge. We have risen to it this year.”

Brown’s bills came up short — way short — in their promise to resolve the persistent housing problem. Then, on September 21, 2021, Brown’s successor Gov. Gavin Newsom pursued his own legislative initiatives. Combined with four housing bills he signed earlier that month, Newsom created a huge 31-bill housing package to make up part of his $22 billion “California Comeback Plan.” Included was a $10.3 billion budget investment for affordable housing to enable the construction of more than 40,000 new affordable homes for low-income Californians.

Newsom promised to streamline California’s housing approval process and create thousands of good paying jobs. The governor also announced $1 billion in awards to so-called 30 shovel-ready projects through the California Housing Accelerator which, because of stalled funding, were previously unable to move forward. The CHA website states that, to date, it’s accelerated nearly 5,000 affordable units. Through affordable housing, Newsom hoped to rebuild the state’s vanishing middle class.

Since 2016, Governors Brown and Newsom have signed nearly 100 housing bills. Brown and Newsom have, despite intense resistance from environmentally conscious residents and reluctant city officials, made increasing California’s housing supply a top priority in their campaign speeches and their administrations’ agendas. Nevertheless, Brown’s and Newsom’s monumental legislative efforts over recent years have had little, if any, effect.

“We’re coming up short,” said Ben Metcalf, managing director of the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation, during a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly housing committees. The number of homes permitted across California has increased 16 percent since 2018, the year Senate Bill 35 forced cities to approve and expedite certain projects that include affordable units, allowing developers to sidestep public hearings and environmental impact studies. Yet, only 132,811 homes were granted permits in 2021 — less than half of what officials predict California needs annually to achieve its goal. California has a 2.5 million new home construction target by 2030, more than double the last planning period’s goal. Of the 2.5 million, at least 1 million must be affordable to low-income families.

Although the 100 bills designed to boost housing construction have barely made a dent in the crisis, state officials are pushing for more legislation: add a provision to the state Constitution that makes home ownership a human right, allow religious organizations to build on their excess property, permit the building of more accessory units commonly known as granny flats and build more duplexes in single-family neighborhoods. The solution, insist legislators, is to build, build and then build some more.

Megan Kirkeby, the Department of Housing and Community Development’s deputy director for policy made a telling remark. “California’s housing crisis is half a century in the making. And after decades of under-production, supply is far behind need, and housing and rental costs are soaring,” she said. Kirkeby was advocating for more building, but the reality is that, for California, the bill has come due. The half a century that Kirkeby referenced represents 50 years of disregard for the state’s unsustainable population growth that has led to 39 million Californians vying with each other for affordable homes, jobs, fresh air and social services. Neglecting the obvious, and failing to take steps to avert shortages, has created this moment. Incompetence in Sacramento where, for decades, the consequences of overpopulation have never been a priority is a major factor in the current housing debacle.

California’s population growth has been more or less flat since 2021, but the Department of Finance projects 42 million people by 2030. The scramble for more development to accommodate the next three million people will continue between now and then, during which time California’s Golden Days will be a distant memory.

Joe Guzzardi writes about immigration issues and impacts at Substack.



Joe Guzzardi

Syndicated columnist Joe Guzzardi writes about American baseball history and immigration issues.