Housing bills would help address California’s wealth inequality


As millions of renters stare down the end of California’s eviction moratorium — and stories of the thousands of evictions that have taken place despite the moratorium are learned — we can clearly see the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic on Californians. It has crystallized just how many Californians decide whether they can pay rent or buy groceries, despite living in the wealthiest state in the country.

It would be simplistic, however, to assume the pandemic pushed these families to this point. COVID-19 didn’t create the state’s stark wealth inequality or housing affordability crisis. It just illuminated them.

California’s wealth gap has been growing for the last 20 years, especially between Californians of color and white households. In Los Angeles, Black and Latino households have one cent for every dollar of wealth held by the average white household. The same holds true in San Francisco and in cities across the state.

For California Community Builders, and many Americans, homeownership is the primary way to foster financial security, build wealth and create upward mobility. Homeownership rates are already lower in California than the national average: More than 60% of whites own their homes, while only 35% of Blacks and just over 40% of Latinos are homeowners. In this trend, exclusionary zoning — laws that have the effect of excluding low-income residents and people of color, such as minimum lot sizes and prohibitions of multifamily housing — plays a starring role.

Robert Apodaca: Founder of ZeZen Advisors, is on the board of California Community Builders. | Courtesy Photo

The consequences of exclusionary zoning are multifaceted. As long as multifamily homes are illegal on more than two-thirds of the residential land in California, we will never be able to build enough housing to meet the needs of our state, let alone reduce housing prices. Zoning regulations that only permit single-family homes force builders to prioritize larger homes that are by design more expensive, effectively reserving homeownership for wealthier, and primarily white, Californians who have more generational wealth and opportunity .

Even incremental changes to these laws, like simply allowing duplexes where currently one house stands, often are met with extreme opposition from vocal neighbors who benefit from exclusion. But duplexes and smaller homes tend to be a more affordable choice for first-time home buyers, mid- to lower-income families and people of color — and limiting the development of these homes is also limiting the ability of these potential buyers to become homeowners, as well as their hopes of ever building wealth.

This year, the California Legislature has the chance to pass two bills that would make it easier for low- and middle-income Californians to afford housing. Senate Bill 9 would make it legal to build smaller, naturally more affordable second units and create access to more opportunities for homeownership, while protecting existing tenants from displacement. Senate Bill 10 would establish a streamlined path for local governments to rezone neighborhoods for up to 10 units — if they choose to do so — drastically improving the ability to build new homes. Together, these bills would add hundreds of thousands of smaller, more affordable homes to the state’s housing supply, making homeownership possible for more Black and Latino Californians.

The pandemic’s economic and social toll will be felt by millions of families for years to come. But while it has raised the curtain on California’s wealth inequality, it also has given us the opportunity to reckon with it.

Exclusionary zoning needs to end, because without systemic change in how we treat housing development in our state, families of color will continue to be barred from the wealth-building opportunities that have benefited so many other families through generations of homeownership.

Adam Briones and Robert Apodaca | Contributed

Find your latest news here at the Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

Subscribe to The Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle


More like this

Even the toughest fighters eventually lose the battle with time. Biden is no exception

A flashbulb memory from the archives of my life: It is the summer of 1997, and we are moving my disabled sister, Wendy, into a care home. She is in her bedroom in my parents’ house.

Riverside students get scholarships from The Aaron Norris Creative Fund

The late Aaron Norris once noted that if you’re going to serve, you’re going to give something — “your time, talent, and treasure, and that all three are equal.”

Man sentenced to 15 years to life for sexually assaulting girl in Riverside elementary school restroom

RIVERSIDE — A convicted sex offender who sexually assaulted a third grade girl inside a restroom at a Riverside elementary school was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in state prison.

Mega Millions Ticket Worth $284K Sold In The Inland Empire

A Mega Millions player in the Inland Empire fell one number shy of winning the $181 million Mega Millions jackpot Tuesday