A Proposed California Constitutional Amendment to Resolve the Housing Affordability Crisis

A Proposed California Constitutional Amendment to Resolve the Housing Affordability Crisis

The People of the State of California hereby find and declare the following:

(a) Whereas, Californians are suffering from an unprecedented housing affordability crisis caused by state and local government regulations, fees, mandates, and prohibitions that have overly restricted housing supplies and increased prices to record levels; and

(b) Whereas, California needs about 4 million additional housing units merely to stabilize prices given current conditions; and

(c) Whereas, California issued about 80,000 residential building permits annually during the past 10 years; and

(d) Whereas, 50 years to stabilize housing prices is too long, and by then, California will likely need millions more housing units; therefore, be it

Resolved that the People of the State of California hereby create the following constitutional right to build residential housing, known and cited as the “Affordable Housing Amendment,” to address the housing affordability crisis:

An individual or private entity has a right to build, on privately owned land, residential housing that complies with applicable fire codes and which does not violate the terms of an agreement covering the property arising from a private homeowner’s association or a private neighborhood/community association.

At least six months before the start of construction, the builder(s) must publish a “Plan to Build,” defined as a public notice along with contact information and blueprints of the project posted on the appropriate city-council website or county-board website. This begins a six-month period from the date of publication during which any member of the public may negotiate with the builder(s), if each party chooses, voluntary modifications or limits to the project.

Builders must provide any necessary private roadways, roadway repairs, and/or utility connections. These costs cannot be offloaded onto third-party residents.

The environment is important to Californians; therefore, builders must remedy any actual and meaningful environmental damage (tort) directly caused by the builder(s) during construction of the residential housing project, but environmental review(s) cannot be used to delay or halt a residential housing project.

Purposes and Intent of the Affordable Housing Amendment

(a) Create a constitutional right to build residential housing that would encourage rapid housing development, while also favoring local decision making

(b) Encourage the formation of private associations to address negative externalities or to pay for commonly held assets

(c) Require that changes to proposed projects be the result of voluntary negotiations, during a limited time period, among builders and the public (the sole exception is applicable fire codes)

(d) Hold builders responsible for any actual and meaningful environmental damage imposed on others as a result of their project, per common law principles of torts

The Affordable Housing Amendment reaffirms a simple, yet fundamental, economic freedom: People should be allowed to build housing on private land. Private property rights derive from people’s rights to life and liberty, and are necessary to sustain and enhance our lives. It is immoral, therefore, to use government force to stand between someone who wants housing and someone who is willing to build housing for them on privately owned land.

A crisis of this magnitude demands bold action. California had a Tax Revolt in the 1970s when homes were seized because homeowners could not afford to pay outrageously high property tax increases. Today, California needs an Unaffordable Housing Revolt in the form of a ballot initiative led by Californians to overcome government restrictions on property rights that artificially constrain housing supply, causing sky-high home and rental housing prices.

[For more information on California’s housing affordability crisis, see How to Restore the California Dream: Removing Obstacles to Fast and Affordable Housing Development.

I welcome civil and constructive edits to the proposed constitutional amendment. Please submit edits below in the comments section. Anyone interested in moving the initiative forward, with thoughts on funding sources, please contact me.]

Lawrence J. McQuillan is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute. He is the author of the Independent book California Dreaming.
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