Hansburg: Political Leaders Acknowledge Need to Build Middle Class Housing

Orange County’s housing shortage is everyone’s problem.  While County social services and non-profit organizations are busy connecting homeless people from the Santa Ana Riverbed to housing and services, this effort is not enough to address Orange County’s housing shortage, especially for middle income earners. Our political leaders know it, and they are now taking action.

Middle income families, earning between $50,000 and $100,000, cannot afford entry-level homes in Orange County, let alone median priced housing. At the same time, older homeowners who purchased their homes well below today’s market prices often cannot afford to move. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize that the only solution to this affordability crisis is to build more housing, and they are challenging cities to make it happen.

On Tuesday, March 13th, the all-Republican Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution  put forward by Chairman Andrew Do, “Orange County’s Declaration on Housing,” that calls on city leaders to commit to increasing Orange County’s low and middle-income housing stock, identified as housing at or below a $500,000 price point.  Among the reasons cited in the resolution are the exodus of young families and middle skilled workers, and the threat Orange County’s housing shortage poses to this region’s long term economic competitiveness.

The Democratic Party of Orange County passed a similar “Resolution in Support of More Housing in Orange County” on February 26th.  This resolution identifies reasons similar to those cited in Chairman Do’s resolution—the shortage of housing for working families and the pushing of young people out of Orange County.  The resolution calls on leaders with land use authority to approve new housing units and to accommodate their “fair share” of the region’s housing need at all income levels.

The DPOC resolution also takes a stand against the use of “ballot box zoning” and referenda on development projects where they pose a barrier to the development of affordable housing.  This statement runs counter to the efforts of Irvine for Responsible Growth, which is seeking to qualify a ballot measure that would require voter approval of new housing developments over 40 units.  A similar ballot measure passed in Costa Mesa in November 2016.

Our political leaders are finally acknowledging the need for more housing.  On February 28th, the Association of California Cities – Orange County and the United Way of Orange County challenged city leaders to welcome 2,700 units of permanent supportive housing for Orange County’s chronically homeless.  According to ACC-OC Executive Director Heather Stratman, most cities have signed on.  Now, political leaders, liberal and conservative, are asking city’s elected officials to extend the welcome to middle income housing, too.

Those leaders will be looking to residents to back them, which is what we YIMBYs plan to do.  We support the construction of new housing in existing communities. We say “Yes In My Backyard” to more housing in our cities to meet the existing housing need and the future demand from people who will move to Orange County to compete for our high-quality job opportunities.

To Orange County’s political and elected leaders: We are here, and we will support you.

Elizabeth Hansburg is Director of Orange County’s YIMBY group, People for Housing OC

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

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