Challenges to Providing Affordable Housing

One of the greatest hurdles that faces the housing industry (and likely one of the direct causes of the housing crisis), is the entitlements process. In my experience, the political will of the jurisdiction will tend to drive everything when it comes to any kind of expedited process. Jurisdictions that are desperate to provide housing will of course be welcoming and claim they will assist, though to be honest, I haven’t seen a dramatic difference in entitlements duration in those cases. These processes are so deeply embedded in their way of doing things that it’s difficult to see real impact to the schedule.

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen jurisdictions actually not support workforce housing at all and throw up additional barriers for the project or impose the most stringent of interpretations of their code despite precedent projects, which can result in endless resubmittals. It’s unfortunate, but real. In most cases, these are places to simply avoid unless you enjoy the struggle.

The smoothest projects seem to be those where the developer either has someone on staff or hires a consultant to politically coordinate with the powers that be in order to generate strong support from the top down, then coupled with an “expediter” who essentially serves as the persistent squeaky wheel with the government agencies to elicit prompt action on submittals and approvals from the bottom up. It takes pressure on both ends to see improvements to the schedule.

One thing is for certain, there seems to be no consistent standard for the approvals processes from one jurisdiction to the next, which makes it very challenging to provide housing at scale across a region in the same predictable, repeatable way. I’ve proposed the idea of trying to solve this at the state level with some sort of legislation or state statute that could clear the flight path for affordability by creating something like a state standard process. That’s a long range goal of course, and probably one to be taken on by one of our professional organizations like ULI, HBA, or AIA that have the power of an industry behind them (and money and lawyers too).

Image Courtesy of City of Pasadena


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