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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Accessibility, Affordability, and the Allocation of Housing Targets to California’s Local Governments

  • Author(s): Zheng, Huixin, PhD
  • Marantz, Nicholas J, PhD
  • Kim, Jae Hong, PhD
  • Houston, Doug, PhD
  • et al.

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California’s Housing Element law establishes processes for determining regional housing needs and allocating these housing needs to cities and counties in the form of numerical targets. This study assesses whether the state's housing allocation process achieves the state’s goals of promoting housing development in areas accessible to transit, jobs, and socioeconomic opportunities. Our first analysis compares the mechanism that the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) uses to allocate housing units to local governments with two simpler alternatives. For all three allocation mechanisms, we assess whether the resulting allocations align with the goal of promoting housing development in areas with high social mobility and near transit and jobs. We find that SCAG’s allocation method may be unnecessarily complex, and that simpler allocation methods – which are less susceptible to technical difficulties and political wrangling – could achieve the state’s policy objectives with less administrative burden. Our second analysis, based on case studies of two Southern California cities, provides preliminary evidence that current enforcement mechanisms adopted in California may be insufficient to ensure that local governments accommodate their housing targets and promote housing development near transit and job centers.

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