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Housing

The Political Battle Over California's Suburban Dream

State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50 would rewrite the state’s single-family zoning codes. What's wrong with that? A lot, say opponents.
Single-family homes sprawl along a hillside in San Marcos, California.
Single-family homes sprawl along a hillside in San Marcos, California.Mike Blake/Reuters

In a hearing room in California’s capitol on Tuesday, State Senator Scott Wiener described a widespread housing crisis in stark terms. California is short about 3.5 million homes, he said, citing a McKinsey report that projected housing demand by 2025. Buying a home at the Golden State’s median price—over half a million dollars—is a fantasy for most households. Rents are soaring, homelessness is up, and displacement is refacing storied neighborhoods.

“Red or blue, all of our communities are struggling,” Wiener told an audience of lobbyists, citizens, and members of the state senate housing committee, who would later have their say about how to address the housing crisis.