The sweeping land use reform bill introduced recently by California state Sen. Scott Weiner, a San Francisco Democrat, died in committee this week, bringing to an end an ambitious plan to change zoning in broad swaths of the state by allowing four- to five-story buildings near all rail transit stations and major bus corridors. Without it or some comparably sweeping reform, California will continue to suffer from exorbitant housing costs that contribute to the highest poverty rate in the nation when judged by the Supplemental Poverty Measure. A natural reaction to this on the part of many people who are either comfortable, reasonably affluent California homeowners or else enjoying life in the South or the Midwest, is to wonder what all the fuss is about. Sure, California — and the entire Boston-to-Washington corridor — may be expensive, but if people don’t want to pay the price, there are plenty of other places in the country to live. Even many Californians who are struggling with rent burdens may wonder why the state should bother trying a supply-side solution. After all, if you already live in California, then by definition you already have a place to live. Stricter rent control and eviction protections could be as good or even better for you than rolling the dice on the consequences of a construction boom.
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