Prop. 1 adds billions in debt but won’t make housing more affordable

By Marc Joffe | This fall, California voters are being asked to add another $16 billion to the mountain of state debt. The four bond measures on the November ballot are cleverly marketed and key into compelling priorities such as children’s health, water, and affordable housing. But if voters dig into the measures, they find costly, inefficient programs that are more likely to benefit special interests than solve problems.

Take affordable housing, for example.  We all know California’s housing is costly. The theory behind Proposition 1 seems to be: Why not have the government borrow money and use it to fund a grab-bag of programs that are supposed to make housing more affordable for those who need it?

But even the state government recognizes that the new bond won’t come close to resolving the housing crisis. A state Senate analysis of Prop. 1 says that California has a deficit of 1.5 million housing units but Legislative Analyst’s Office finds Prop. 1 would help just 55,500 households.

The most cost-effective way to produce large numbers of affordable units would be to place manufactured homes in less expensive, outlying areas. But that isn’t the type of housing prioritized in Proposition 1. Instead, it aims to finance urban apartment buildings near mass transit stops, which means costly custom construction projects on expensive land — significantly reducing the number of units that can be provided.

To read this entire commentary in the Orange County Register, please click here.

Marc Joffe is a senior policy analyst at Reason Foundation.

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