It seems to be an almost daily occurrence in recent months when another report or study is released confirming what we have known for a long time: California and regions like the Bay Area, in particular, aren’t building enough housing to meet demand. What the recent data is revealing to us is not just the level of the shortage, but also the many consequences of our chronic under building, including displacement and community upheaval, overcrowding, poor health and educational outcomes, and generational poverty.

This week, the US Census Bureau released data on our region’s population growth, and not surprisingly it is growing, and growing fast. From 2010-14, Alameda County alone added 100,000 new residents. During that same period, the county averaged just 2,500 new housing permits per year (that’s permits, not units actually built). The massive competition for the very few available homes is impacting the ability of employers to attract and retain the best talent, and creating a serious financial burden for lower-income residents who are forced to spend an inordinate amount of their take home pay on rent. According to a recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s bottom quartile of earners spend an astronomical 67 percent of their take home pay on housing.

It is clear that our housing shortage is the principal driver of California’s nation-leading poverty rate. The time is long past for incremental solutions or piecemeal responses. We need a crisis-type response to what is clearly a critical situation. That means we need big, bold steps in the capitol to both incentivize local governments to build more housing and punish those that choose to ignore their housing obligations. Our housing shortage is every bit as serious as our water shortage and deserves similar attention from our elected leaders. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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