Report advocates infill development to boost California’s housing supply

1 Los Angeles

Los Angeles News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search

Encouraging new housing development of vacant or under-used properties would spur economic growth, reduce monthly household costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions and help California meets its climate goals, according to a report released today.

The “Right Type, Right Place” report was commissioned by Next 10 with research conducted by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation and the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at UC Berkeley.

“This report we think is the first academic and comprehensive evaluation of the potential economic and environmental impacts of infill housing,” Next 10 founder F. Noel Perry said. “I read a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office that said we’re down about 1 million units from what we need. We are way behind in terms of the future.”

Building new housing on infill properties — which are properties located in already dense urban or suburban areas but that are under-used — would mean more housing in regions that area already populated.

The study includes three scenarios for California’ housing future through 2030. They include a “business-as-usual” plan where development would follows the same track it did from 2000 to 2015, a “medium” infill scenario that would include much more infill housing and more multi-family units, and a “target’ scenario where all new housing development would occur in infill areas with more multifamily housing than the business-as-usual plan.

The report clearly advocates the latter.

“We think the target infill scenario makes a lot of sense,” said Carol Galante, faculty director at the Terner Center. “It has a number of benefits but that won’t happen without some additional policy changes at the local and state levels. We make a number of recommendations about what they can do to streamline the approval process and reduce some of the requirements that are put on new homes.”

The recommendations, which keep the state’s environmental goals clearly in sight, include:

•Changing zoning to allow for more multifamily use, reduced parking requirements and increased allowable density while also shortening overly lengthy permitting time lines

•Implementing anti-displacement policies, such as the preservation of affordable housing and additional measures that would prevent tenant harassment and guarantee lease renewals

• Directing more funds to rail and rapid-transit bus investments

• Developing urban growth boundaries to protect critical open space and farmland from further development and environmental degradation


The study says the “target” scenario would boost the Golden State’s annual economic growth by more than $800 million over the business-as-usual approach. It would also result in annual reductions of nearly 1.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions — the equivalent of taking 378,000 cars off the road.

That certainly wouldn’t hurt because California’s climate goals are becoming progressively more stringent. The state is looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. That would be a 15 percent reduction over the business-as-usual model. A 40 percent reduction is planned by 2030 and a 2015 executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown would cut emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

The report also notes some macro benefits. Residents living in infill areas would drive about 18 fewer miles per weekday than others in non-infill areas. That would result in about 90 fewer miles of driving a week.

Infill development would also promote more walkable neighborhoods, resulting in lower driving costs and lower utility bills. Renters would save an average of $312 annually, the report said, and homeowners would save about $156 a year.

Mel Wilson broker and owner of Mel Wilson & Associates Realtors in Northridge, said infill development is one of the easiest ways to boost the region’s supply of homes.

“You already have an infrastructure of streets and you don’t have to build new sewer lines,” he said.

He also pointed to two bills that went into effect in January that now permit California homeowners with single-family homes to add a guest house or “granny flat” to their property, providing that the owner actually lives in the main house and that the additional structure doesn’t exceed 50 percent of the size of the primary home.

“They also don’t have to add additional parking,” he said. “The key is having a lot that’s big enough.”

The new legislation has already fueled an uptick in applications from homeowners looking to add granny flats to their lots.

“Cities are rushing to put guidelines in place,” Wilson said. “I think we’re going to see a lot more of these.”

One thing is certain — more homes are needed no matter what form they take.

Figures from the California Department of Housing and Community Development and the state Department of Finance reveal that California will need more than 1.8 million additional homes by 2025 to keep pace with the state’s ever-growing population.

“Another thing we can’t overlook is that housing in these infill areas will not only help the environment, but also keep people closer to their families and improve their quality of life,” Galante said.

1 Los Angeles

Los Angeles News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search

Leave a Reply