California's housing laws, which require state review of local housing plans, would seem to allow for substantial state oversight of local housing production. The California approach is one of the best-known and broadest-ranging efforts to get localities to build their fair share of housing that working families can afford. As implemented, however, California's housing laws do not seem to be having a direct impact on local production of affordable housing. Lewis, Puentes, and Nelson agree that state-level policy still has the potential to do so. Learning from the California experience and the track record of such states as Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon could help to shape more effective policy as the affordable housing crunch spreads from the East and West coasts across the country.
This study would be of interest to state-level policy-makers, analysts of state housing policy, and affordable housing advocates and researchers interested in the role of state policy in supporting affordable housing production. Although the analytical focus is on California, lessons can be applied more broadly.
Although many housing scholars are familiar with the basic provisions of the California housing element law, its impacts on housing production have not previously been subjected to scholarly scrutiny. Lewis uses multivariate analysis to learn whether municipalities' compliance or noncompliance with the state requirement is a significant predictor of their subsequent housing production, with special attention to multifamily units. His discussion and that of Nelson and Puentes highlight the important roles that state policy can play in supporting the production of affordable housing while acknowledging that this potential has generally gone unattained.
Although state-level housing policy is important and influential in setting the context in which housing development occurs, as is local policy, it is important not to underestimate the strong influence of local housing markets in shaping where housing is developed.
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