California doesn’t have enough land set aside to meet Gov. Gavin Newsom’s housing goals, report says

Gov. Gavin Newsom at the Capitol this month.
Gov. Gavin Newsom at the Capitol this month.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Among the hurdles Gov. Gavin Newsom will face in his goal to see 3.5 million new homes built across California over the next seven years is that the state hasn’t set aside enough land for that development, a forthcoming report by UCLA concludes.

Cities and counties have zoned land to allow for the construction of 2.8 million homes, according to research from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. Because not all that land can be developed quickly for home construction, the state would probably have to double or triple the amount of land zoned for housing for the governor to reach his goal, said Paavo Monkkonen, an associate professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA.

The report “shows pretty clearly that it’s going to be a hard slog to actually get 3.5 million housing units built,” Monkkonen said.


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Newsom has said his homebuilding goal — at a rate that would more than quadruple the state’s current annual production — is the key to addressing the lack of housing supply he believes is the underlying cause of California’s affordability problems.

During his first month in office, the governor has made a number of proposals aimed at boosting the state’s housing supply. In his budget plan, Newsom allocated more than $1 billion to cities and counties that approve new housing and homelessness services. He authorized a lawsuit against Huntington Beach, accusing the city of defying state residential zoning rules. And he’s pledged to revamp the process for how the state requires local governments to set aside land for housing in an effort to increase growth.

Newsom also supports the state’s climate change goals, which call for building near transit and job centers to reduce carbon emissions associated with driving.

Monkkonen’s research indicates the difficulties in achieving that goal, too. While the city of Los Angeles has set aside land to accommodate more than 300,000 new homes — the most of any area in the state — unincorporated areas of San Bernardino, Madera and Kern counties are all in the top 10 jurisdictions with the most land zoned for housing.

To meet goals for housing production, climate change and providing access to existing jobs, communities will have to dramatically reorient how they zone land for housing away from rural neighborhoods and toward urban centers, Monkkonen said.


“Increasing the production in the true high-opportunity parts of the state is the true challenge,” he said.

The UCLA research will be part of a forthcoming report on local zoning in California.

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