Despite recent attempts to reduce barriers to building in California, the housing sector remains hamstrung by excessive regulation.  Ben Christopher writing at Cal Matters says there’s one bright spot in this otherwise dreary picture:

But unlike the vast majority of affordable developments that have been proposed in California in recent memory, no taxpayer dollars are allotted to build the thing. Especially in the state’s expensive coastal cities, the term “unsubsidized 100% affordable project” is an oxymoron, but Los Angeles is now approving them by the hundreds.

That’s thanks to an executive order Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, signed in December 2022, shortly after being sworn into office. In the year and change since, the city’s planning department has received plans for more than 16,150 affordable units, according to filings gathered by the real estate data company, ATC Research, and analyzed by CalMatters. That’s more than the total number of approved affordable units in Los Angeles in 2020, 2021 and 2022 combined.

This sort of outcome was completely unexpected:

“I don’t think anybody saw this coming,” said Scott Epstein, policy director at Abundant Housing LA and one of the authors of that analysis. “When it comes to 100% privately invested projects…I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything close to the magnitude that that has been unleashed.”

The key to success was reducing the regulatory burdens faced by developers of affordable housing units:

The order sets a shot-clock of 60 days for the city’s planning department to approve or reject a submitted project. As long as that project meets a basic set of criteria, it must be approved. That means no city council hearings, no neighborhood outreach meetings and no environmental impact studies required. . . .

Another key detail: Unlike most recent statewide laws aimed at speeding up the approval of new housing, the Los Angeles law doesn’t require developers to pay construction workers heightened “prevailing wages” — roughly equal to what unionized construction workers earn on a public infrastructure projects.

In the past those barriers were so burdensome that affordable housing could not be built in LA without large public subsidies.  But the recent change unleashed a wave of new projects that are 100% privately funded.

Read the whole thing.