Costly Berkeley Housing Mandates Highlight Need for Continuing Reform
Costly, excessive and often unnecessary local fees, regulations and other mandates have been a major contributor to California’s sky-high housing costs, adding tens of thousands of dollars and more to the cost of construction and amplifying the state’s affordability crisis. The Bay Area Council has worked hard at a state level to limit and reduce fees, regulations and mandates, but a new ordinance approved in Berkeley this week served as a reminder that there is much more work to be done.
The City Council approved an ordinance cleverly titled the Helping Achieve Responsible Development with Healthcare and Apprenticeship Training Standards (HARD HATS) that requires builders to provide apprenticeship programs and healthcare coverage to workers on large projects. The Council is not opposed to healthcare and apprenticeships for workers, but we expressed strong concerns about imposing new mandates and costs on housing and barriers that creates to affordability.
“This is a math problem,” said Council Vice President Louis Mirante, “These ordinances are really important for workers and are really important for improving people’s lives — but if projects are not feasible at the end of the day, that’s really helping absolutely no one except developers in the Central Valley.”
The city committed to undertaking a feasibility study on costs before the ordinance goes into effect, but there are deep questions and concerns that this action will further stunt an already moribund housing construction market. The Council will be watching to ensure the city follows through.