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Blog Post · August 8, 2023

Desire for Action on Housing Contrasts with How Californians Want to Live

photo - Aerial view of southern California houses

Californians have harbored grim views of housing for years because the state of housing in California has been grim. This despite recent attempts by current leaders to alleviate the housing crisis as well as efforts that go back to the Brown Administration. But how Californians want the state to respond to this ongoing crisis conflicts with how Californians envision housing for themselves, as insights from recent PPIC Statewide Surveys reveal.

A top issue of contention involves the role of environmental and land use restrictions in attempts to build more housing. While a majority of Californians want the state to ease these restrictions to increase housing supply, more than four in ten think restrictions should stay the same, even if it increases the cost of new housing, according to our July survey. Over the past two decades, Californians have switched sides on restrictions (November 2001 survey: 43% ease restrictions, 53% maintain current restrictions).

Today, residents across the state—with the exception of a divided San Francisco Bay Area—want restrictions eased to help with the housing shortage. Furthermore, renters are much more likely to support easing restrictions than homeowners—although homeowners are divided on the issue.

Opinions on environmental and land use restrictions mirror how Californians feel about reducing state regulations by changing CEQA—the California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA has guided planning on building projects and land use for over 40 years. About six in ten (59%) Californians favor changing CEQA regulations as a way to make housing more affordable; support for such changes is also widespread at half or more across parties and regions.

Whether local or state government should set housing policy is another point of contention in dealing with the crisis. Nearly six in ten Californians think the state should require local government to build their “fair share” of new housing that is affordable for the workforce in the region. On the other side, four in ten Californians say that local governments should decide how much and what kinds of new housing to build in their communities, rather than legislators in Sacramento.

Democrats and independents and half or more across regions think the California Legislature should require communities to develop affordable housing, while Republicans think local government should set housing policy. Homeowners are divided, but renters overwhelmingly support a requirement to build affordable housing and do not think localities should determine the kinds of housing built.

Even as Californians insist they want affordable housing to be available, their own housing preferences contradict this demand. People prefer single-family homes over condos or townhomes by an overwhelming majority—even if they need to drive a car to commute and get around locally. Just three in ten would choose a condo or townhome that is convenient to public transit. Regardless of political affiliation or where in California they live, adults maintain a preference for the single-family home.

The state needs to find a working solution to its housing shortage because the lack of housing is driving people out California and leading many to seriously consider a move. A 2024 affordable housing bond may give voters the chance to bolster efforts by Governor Newsom and the state legislature to address the housing crunch, but will the government and communities factor in housing preferences if building begins?  The PPIC Statewide Survey will be monitoring Californians’ views as the state weighs options for addressing its housing crisis.


CEQA Housing Political Landscape Statewide Survey