Housing and Infrastructure Platform
The last several decades have seen a rapid expansion in California’s population and economy. However, investments in necessary infrastructure have failed to keep up. A severe housing shortage faces Californians and other issues are interwoven with this one. The influx of people and businesses requires improvement in access to water and energy resources, higher density housing along major transit routes, along with more efficient transportation which would allow workers to more easily commute while living in more affordable outlying regions. It is time to invest in California and create the modern infrastructure needed to provide a high standard of living for our citizens, as well as to provide the foundation for continued economic expansion and business competitiveness.
The rising cost of housing poses an existential crisis for many longtime residents, favoring wealthy newcomers and real estate speculators while forcing many low and middle-class Californians to leave. To make California more livable for everyone, the California National Party (CNP) supports a series of critical reforms, guided by the following principles in developing its housing policy:
- No one in California with a job should be unable to afford housing within a reasonable distance of that job. Housing will be acknowledged as a civil right and incorporated into the California Constitution.
- California should remove unnecessary institutional barriers in zoning codes, funding programs, and lending practices, as well as commit itself to the promotion of economic diversity in communities throughout the state.
- Affordability must be ensured by facilitating the production of housing at a variety of price points and housing formats, either through market mechanisms or state-funded construction.
- Communities throughout the state differ substantially in their housing needs. Policies adopted at the state level should recognize this and allow for as much local control over housing policy as is practical, while also taking steps to prevent the capture of local housing decisions by narrow unrepresentative interests.
California can incentivize sustainable development by only providing funds for redevelopment if certain density, mixed-use, and affordable housing requirements are met. In particular, projects featuring three or four stories of residential atop first-floor retail will be encouraged. This will facilitate car-free living on a human scale and create a large number of affordable homes. With fewer individual yards, it will be necessary to increase funding for the creation and maintenance of parks and other urban green spaces. In addition, state funds for highway construction and maintenance should be tied to local governments reaching their new housing targets and will be withdrawn if such targets are not met.
Additionally, California should learn from housing policies that have been effective in other cities, states, and nations. In particular, Singapore has had success with the promotion of large scale government-funded housing construction, and Tokyo has had success with substantial liberalization of zoning laws to permit a variety of housing forms to be constructed throughout the city, substantially lowering the cost of housing. California has always been open to ideas from other places, and with regard to housing policy, we can take the best ideas from everywhere.
The CNP advocates for the following housing policies as soon as they can be practically implemented:
- Streamlining of building permits and environmental review in urban areas to support urban infill while avoiding displacing residents, with a special focus on the construction of high-density housing near transit corridors. Environmental reviews should be more efficient and should protect the environment without becoming an instrument of economic exclusion.
- Discourage the racial segregation of neighborhoods and promote diverse communities, through means such as focused investment into infrastructure, parks, schools, and public services such as street cleaning in historically marginalized communities.
- California will seek to end the creation of ‘poverty islands’ in public housing by propagating economic diversity and affordability in all neighborhoods.
- Rent control should be used as a mechanism to stabilize at-risk communities while being paired with measures designed to promote the construction of new housing.
- As the best farmlands and wildlife habitats are frequently also the most likely to be usurped by residential use, we encourage zoning policies that preserve and enhance forests, greenspace, and working farms.
- The California public bank, described in our Economy plank, will invest in both small- and large-scale local and regional projects, public and private, that are deemed to be serving the public good, including public housing projects.
- Create a housing security fund, operated like social security, where every resident pays into their own account through a progressive payroll tax, to be used as a form of transferable equity to secure housing, subsidizing lower-income individuals to a minimum standard.
- Take steps to encourage housing density near jobs and transit, such as eliminating parking minimums, discourage or restrict building height limits in core areas, the promotion of walkable neighborhoods, and encourage or require mixed-use zoning.
- Require large scale developers to coordinate with municipal road expansion timelines to assure sufficient transportation is available to new communities and thereby reduce traffic concerns.
- Encourage prefabrication especially for residential structures
- Enable individuals to build or modify their own homes with fewer constraints.
Water usage and accessibility is a key issue for every Californian no matter their job, political views, or place of residence. Therefore, investment in water infrastructure, such as moving water from coastal desalination plants to rural farming communities, is needed to ensure access to water at reasonable prices for all communities and farms. To this end, the CNP advocates for the following policies:
- Urban rainwater collection should be the norm and will be incentivized in all new construction, urban and rural, where possible.
- Rural water use for California’s world-class agricultural industries will remain a top priority while incentives will encourage cultivators to use dry farming methods, water-efficient techniques, and select more location-appropriate crops.
- State buildings will try to utilize the majority of their rooftop space for environmentally, socially beneficial, and productive purposes. Examples include green roofs and gardens, solar collection, skylights, and public spaces.
- Green roofs and other water-saving technology should be incentivized in all new residential buildings, with the state matching funds for upgrades to existing buildings.
- Incentives for water-efficient landscaping practices should be made available, and community standards be established according to local requirements.
- The government must sponsor research and development of desalination technology so that California can become a regional water broker.
California’s energy policies must emphasize the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance sustainability. The CNP supports initiatives to:
- Shift from gasoline to zero-emission vehicles as soon as possible in both the public and private sectors, through a combination of mandates and incentives.
- Meet the 50% renewable by 2030 energy goal.
- Double the energy efficiency of existing buildings.
- Decentralized energy generation through the promotion of individually owned wind and solar units.
- Phased-in upgrades to California’s building codes to incentivize green building technology, eventually making it mandatory for all new structures.
- Promote decentralized in-stream hydroelectric power that does not interfere with natural water flows or ecosystems.
- California should seek to partner with industry in the promotion of a green innovation economy that can benefit California both economically and environmentally.
Many failures of California’s energy policy can be tied to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). For decades, from the Hinkley groundwater contamination to recent electricity grid-caused wildfires, PG&E has shown itself to be an irresponsible corporate actor. Often its 5 million customers in the northern two-thirds of California have been forced to pay for the company’s mistakes to protect the interests of its investors. Californians should no longer be forced to pay—financially, environmentally, and far too often though personal loss—for PG&E’s incompetence. The CNP therefore supports the following plan to bring control over energy to local communities:
- The California government should initially transfer PG&E to state control through stock purchase, and shortly thereafter devolve many functions to counties and regions. In the meantime, California should use this period to upgrade the system, including the burying of electrical lines wherever possible.
- The high voltage transmission grid, which spans across California and beyond, would remain a publicly administered utility, much as the major freeways and transportation lines are administered under Caltrans.
- Power generation itself and the lower voltage distribution grid would be transferred to the local level (county or regional, depending on circumstances). They could then determine, based on their specific needs and desires, whether to institute a public utility such as SMUD in Sacramento, a local customer cooperative, or private enterprise, with oversight by the California Public Utilities Commission.
- As much as practical, current employees should keep their jobs, salary, and pension status during and after the transition.
Efficient and widely accessible transportation is crucial to California’s future. Transportation is a driver not only of economic growth but of class mobility. Vibrant and diverse communities can only exist if the individuals in those communities have easy access to transportation that can take them to jobs, shopping, and recreation. Transportation is also crucial to maintaining a productive industrial base, in which raw materials and goods can easily be moved to where they are needed. Finally, any transportation system must take into consideration environmental concerns and the increasingly serious consequences of climate change. The CNP advocates for the following transportation policies:
- Investment in diverse transportation strategies to end the freeway gridlock in our cities with a policy that focuses on the needs of each region, based on geography and population density. Such a policy should give special emphasis to congestion pricing, which is one of the most demonstrably successful means of reducing gridlock.
- Supporting a commission to investigate the feasibility of solar roadways, sidewalks, and bike paths.
- Increased development and expansion of light rail in urban cores to encourage density and reduce congestion, along with intercity rail to encourage mass transit commuters from outlying suburbs.
- To increase the sustainability and viability of rail transit systems, we will encourage such systems to build housing on land next to train stations owned by the transit agency that they can then derive rent from and use as a funding source for continued rail expansion, as is common in other countries such as Japan.
- California should encourage cycling through a variety of measures, such as dedicated lanes separated from car traffic by a hard boundary, implementation of secure bicycle storage, and the deployment of bike rental fleets where feasible.
- Regional transportation should be consolidated with the goal of increasing efficiency and removing bureaucracy, especially in areas with a number of uncoordinated transit agencies.
- We support high-speed rail, and greater rail connectivity in general, across California similar to the Japanese rail systems, including the efforts by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to establish an initial working system by 2025. Rural areas should be attached to this by a modern bus system consolidated around regional hubs.
- Special efforts should be undertaken to ensure that historically impoverished neighborhoods are connected to jobs and educational opportunities via public transport.
- Exploring the feasibility of expanding maritime infrastructure along the coast, including upgrades to existing piers and harbors, along with the construction of new floating harbors for a variety of uses such as ferry service, cruise vessels, and support for offshore renewable energy facilities.