By Ed Coghlan.
“Housing Affordability is the number one issue facing California.”
Those words come from Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments in a recent interview with California Forward at SCAG’s Housing Summit in Los Angeles.
“Housing relates to economic development and economic well-being of people,” said Ikhrata, pointing to the need for action on the lack of affordable housing in the state.
Nearly 500 people attended the Housing Summit which highlights the importance people are placing on the issue. Ikhrata outlined four steps he believes need to happen now:
- “We need to let builders build housing. So we need to reform CEQA. I’m for CEQA but I’m against the abuse of CEQA. The abuse of CEQA has to stop. It’s getting ridiculous.
- We need to ask our local elected officials, who are the decision makers, to stop the NIMBYs (the not in my backyard people) and allow housing of all kind for all income groups.
- We need to stop gentrification like is happening in downtown Los Angeles, where you want to build housing and want to increase density, but you wind up building housing that is not affordable for most and drive people out.
- Finally, we need cooperation among federal, state and local officials and money to subsidize and mitigate the impact of housing.”
He said if the issue is going to be adequately addressed, it must start at the local and regional level, which is why, he believes, it was vital to have the recent housing discussion in Los Angeles. State and federal officials can help with regulations and mitigation, but the will to fix the problem he says, must be mostly at the local level.
SCAG also released a report looking at the state of housing affordability and strategies that focuses on local fiscal and planning actions for boosting supply.
The need for housing has been a cornerstone issue of the California Economic Summit, which will gather in Sacramento December 13-14 to continue to its work for a solution to what can only be called a housing crisis in California.
SCAG is the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization, representing six counties, 191 cities and more than 18 million residents. The organization undertakes a variety of planning and policy initiatives to encourage a more sustainable Southern California now and in the future.
While the issue is complex and difficult, Ikhrata is optimistic.
“We are an agency that believes in doing the right thing and this is the right thing to be working on.”