Local Housing Conference Discusses Problems and Solutions to Housing Supply Crisis

By Bob Walsmith Jr.
2022 President
Santa Barbara Association of Realtors

Last month I attended the Coastal Housing Coalition Santa Barbara Housing Conference which provides community education through discussions and on-going problem solving to help correct our housing supply crisis.  This year’s conference covered a myriad of topics including a look at government created redlining, housing and parking requirements, state housing laws, local housing production, and a view of our regional housing supply crisis. 

All the panels had nuggets of information that I walked away with.  Keynote Speaker Dr. Jessica Trounstine, Professor and Department Chair of Political Science at University of California at Merced said that measures such as rent control do not work unless tied with a large increase in the housing supply.  She also noted that increased density should not happen in one area of a city because it creates segregation.  Instead, density should be spread out across the entire city which is more equitable.  Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) are the closest program achieving this. 

The parking panel made me think about the realities of the push towards reduced-to no-parking residential developments and what it means with our current infrastructure.  As an avid urban hiker, I love walking around our communities, and I see the parking problems because people use their cars, especially for short trips.  This panel opened my eyes that technologies are changing rapidly to address the “last mile”; getting someone from mass transportation to their final destination.  I’m excited to hear about the evolving bike share programs, creating better walkable/bikeable streets, and increasing the reliability of public transportation. 

As President of the Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS® (SBAOR) I attend both State and National conferences learning about housing laws and regulations.  I enjoyed hearing from the panelists at this conference about the State housing laws because the discussion revolved around how the state laws are impacting our region.  Some of the most impactful legislation that has created meaningful housing are the ADU laws. 

Housing production is our biggest hurdle in addressing the housing supply crisis.  We need to think outside the box when it comes to creating all types of housing in our region.  Another panel spoke about ways to increase the housing supply from creating certainty during the permitting process to creative financing of affordable projects.  I was glad to hear that others besides SBAOR understand the importance of private/public partnerships and that our systems need to be realigned to seriously address our housing supply shortage.

Last, but not least, I was honored to be part of the panel discussing the SBAOR commissioned studyHousing Affordability in the South Coast: Impacts of Past Policies and Potential Pathways for the Future.  This study provides an in-depth analysis of the economic, demographic and housing market conditions in the South Santa Barbara County region. It highlights the growing affordability crisis and the many factors limiting housing development. In addition to the data, this report provides potential policy pathways to help foster greater housing production, increase affordability, and protect the future economic vitality of the region. The South Coast faces high barriers to housing, from immutable (such as geographic constraints) to cultural and political factors, including major barriers by the local regulatory regimes, and zoning and approval processes.  Combating these barriers will be difficult, but through aseries of modest policy changes, in aggregate, could translate to significant strides in terms of incentivizing new housing development.

This conference reiterated the multifaceted components of our housing supply crisis.  We need to be aware of where and how we increase our density to ensure diverse communities, think outside the box when creating housing, and look at our housing supply crisis regionally.  While we will never completely solve our housing supply crisis, by working together and saying “yes” to housing, we can take the “crisis” out of this daunting problem.  

Bob Walsmith Jr. is a native to Southern California and a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Santa Barbara. During his work with the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, Bob has served on the CORE Committee, Education Committee, been Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee, and the Multiple Listing Service Committee. He also is on the Board of Directors of the Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara. Bob lives in Goleta with his beautiful wife Julie. When not working, Bob enjoys playing golf, fine wine, fine dining, and walking our beautiful coastline. Bob can be reached at 805.720.5362 and/or bob@bobwalsmithjr.com

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