Could California’s Housing Efforts Curb Environmental Progress?

California has recently pioneered efforts to curb climate change, passing bills and measures to reduce emissions and create a greener state. But another pressing crisis may momentarily eclipse these efforts:


San Francisco Free Press reports that the more than 130 bills proposed to solve California’s housing crisis could jeopardize the measures put in place by the California Environmental Equality Act. While landscaping increases a home’s resale value by 14%, Gov. Jerry Brown is declining legislation that includes excessive land use, and the issue is likely more complicated than the physical construction of housing.

According to Fast Company, Assembly Bill 32, passed in 2006, set a state goal to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Then, the legislators hoped to reduce 1990 levels by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. However, this is not on track. Emissions only dropped by .34% in 2015, setting the state up for a difficult task in the coming years.

One potential culprit? Increased transportation due to housing displacement.

Fast Company reports that transportation makes up 38.5% of California’s total greenhouse gas emissions. And when people are forced to seek affordable housing, often over 100 miles from their job, they need to drive to work. Transportation-related green house gas emissions actually went up by 2.7% in 2015, according to Fast Company. This spike is also due to lower gas prices and the state’s economic boom, but housing complicated the issue.

“Until we increase the housing supply, this issue is only going to compound,” Adam Fowler, research manager at Beacon Economics, said in a statement.

While the housing crisis is connected to environmental concerns, causes other problems, too. According to The Sacramento Bee, 22% of the country’s homeless population lives in California. Many experts tie this to a spike in housing prices and a notable shortage in affordable housing, which traces back to the 1970s.

“It started then and it’s still true today – people, just as a matter of human nature, are anxious about change and accommodating new people in their communities,” Brian Uhler, head of housing research for the state Legislative Analyst’s Office.

As with a host of other issues, much of the power rests in the hands of state voters. For example, with over two hundred million trips taken over defective bridges in the country’s 102 largest metro areas, residents can push their legislators to prioritize infrastructure reform. In the case of housing, it is also about priorities.

“California communities are vested with significant authority over land-use decisions, about how much can be built, and when and where. They have used that authority to create significant barriers for the construction of new housing,” he said in a statement to Sacramento Bee. “Shrinking Rust Belt cities are the only kinds of places that are building as little housing as our coastal areas did in recent decades.”

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