Under guise of ‘affordable housing,’ redevelopment might be making a comeback

By Steven Greenhut | In the seven years since Gov. Jerry Brown shut down California’s redevelopment agencies, their defenders have managed to resuscitate their image. Never mind that these controversial agencies ladled out corporate welfare, wantonly abused eminent domain on behalf of developers and diverted $5 billion annually from public services. A new bill would bring them back to life, and its supporters would have us believe they’re the means to resolve California’s housing crisis.

Steven GreenhutThat argument is bizarre given that “redevelopment” actually helped cause the current housing shortage because it overvalued the construction of sales-tax-generating big-box stores at the expense of home construction. Sure, redevelopment law required agencies to set aside 20 percent of their proceeds to build subsidized apartments, but the relatively small number of redevelopment-created units pales in comparison to the havoc wreaked by the land-use distortions caused by these agencies.

Revisionist history is part of human nature, but rarely do the history books get rewritten so quickly. Before lawmakers embrace the Pollyanna view of redevelopment, they need to remind themselves why these agencies were created – and why the state ultimately shuttered them. The answer to this last question: the agencies failed to accomplish their primary mission of blight removal and ended up imposing severe financial restraints on the state budget.

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