Housing Advocates Against Affordable Housing?

As Ethan reported yesterday, AB 710, the innovative parking reform bill sponsored by the California Infill Builders Association, may not be dead, but it’s not in great shape, either.  Ethan blames the local government lobby for this, and that makes sense.  But there are some strange bedfellows here.

Take a look at the list of the opponents of the bill.  It reads like an all-star team of affordable housing and economic justice advocates: LAANE, California Affordable Housing Law Project, California Rural Legal Assistance, the Bus Riders Union, LA Voice PICO, Public Counsel Law Center, Venice Community Housing Corporation, etc.

This is beyond strange.  AB 710 would reduce costs for infill developers, which would make housing more affordable.  What gives?

Apparently, the housing advocates’ argument is two-fold.  First, without excessive parking requirements, cities will not be able to bargain them away in exchange for inclusionary requirements.  Second, by promoting infill development, AB 710 would promote gentrification.

If these are indeed these organizations’ arguments, they are unpersuasive.  I know of no instance where municipalities have traded inclusionary requirements for reduced parking, and the housing advocates provided no examples for legislative bill analysts.  In any event, such a trade might now be illegal, in light of the Court of Appeal’s truly horrific decision equating inclusionary zoning with rent control.  As for the gentrification argument, it’s hard to accept: the bill explicitly mandates no net loss of low-income units and exempts from its scope any areas where covenants or ordinances preserve low-income housing.

The affordable housing advocates’ opposition could be making a real difference.  Democrats who might otherwise support infill development might vote no after seeing the opposition, and Democrats who don’t like the bill anyway now have an official excuse.  Most Republicans seem to oppose the bill anyway: their free-market ideology usually conveniently goes out the window when it comes to protecting regulations they like.  (Getting the roll call tally is hard, so this assessment might change somewhat.).

I’m going to dig into this one a little more: there could be a backstory that I’m not getting.  But for now, this appears to be an exhibit for an aphorism a conservative friend of mine once told me: “the Left will eat its own.”

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