April 26, 2023
By Ethan Azad, Research Assistant
Last month, alongside several of my teammates at RSG, I attended the 2023 Housing California Conference, the state’s largest housing conference that brings together people engaged in all aspects of the housing industry. Affordable housing developers; supportive service providers; construction firms; architects; private and public sector lenders; renewable energy companies; advocates; university students; city, county, and state-level government officials; community development consultants like RSG; and so many more people from varying backgrounds came together to discuss California’s housing needs, challenges, and opportunities.
The theme at this year’s conference was “Housing’s Next Chapter.” Plenary speakers and workshop hosts spoke about recovery from the pandemic, diversity and inclusion, and the need to address historic injustices whose legacies remain with us today. I personally attended workshops on financing strategies, lending opportunities, new affordable housing data, and tenant protections. In each session, speakers highlighted the importance of creating opportunities and protections for historically disenfranchised groups. To me, it seemed like everyone was on the same page that while the history of housing in California and the nation is one that is rife with discrimination towards disadvantaged communities, we can and must do better in terms of innovating and implementing solutions to the housing crisis facing the state.
As someone relatively new to the housing space, I was pleasantly surprised to see and meet so many people who are actively part of the process of turning ideas into tangible homes for people to live in. Homes are more than just shelter; they are the prerequisite to success in the other aspects of our lives, and in California, which has a third of the nation’s unhoused population, far too many people lack this most foundational of resources.
California’s housing crisis is rooted in a number of factors—including local exclusionary zoning policies, community resistance to new developments, the need for multiple funding sources, high costs for land, materials, and construction, and more. Sometimes the challenges can feel intractable. However, the most important takeaway for me was that there are thousands of smart and determined individuals working every day to meet and overcome these challenges.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to attend my first Housing California Conference. I’m also grateful to be one of those individuals trying to overcome these stated challenges through the work we do at RSG.