California’s Carbon Madness

California’s runaway housing prices caused by a policy-created shortage of homes will be getting a tailwind in a little more than a year. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, every home built in the state, including condominiums and low-rise apartments, will have to have solar panels on their roofs.

The regulatory framework was approved on Dec. 5 by the Building Standards Commission, about seven months after the California Energy Commission unanimously voted to adopt the standards.

“These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country,” said Kent Sasaki, one of six commissioners voting for the new energy code.

Historic, yes. California is the first state to enact such a mandate. A beacon of light? More like a bright red strobe calling attention to yet another legislative blunder in Sacramento.

Allow us to explain.

Forcing builders to equip news homes with a rooftop solar farm could increase the cost of each unit $14,000 to $16,000, according to developer Meritage Homes. The state estimate is about $8,400 per unit. But the state does not build homes. Meritage does. It’s not hard to decide which figure is likely to be more accurate.

Even if the state’s estimate is more reliable, there is still the question: Why increase the costs of housing in a state where it is already unaffordable to many?

The median home price in this state was $572,000 in October, according to the California Association of Realtors, 4.7 percent higher than October 2017. Median home prices are higher only in Hawaii and Washington, D.C.

According to National Association of Home Builders data, 92.4 percent of all homes in Los Angeles County, the most heavily populated county in the state, are unaffordable.

A little more than a year ago, the California Budget Center reported that “Californians in all parts of the state” were paying “more than they can afford for housing.” Close to half of the state’s households were burdened by unaffordable housing costs, defined as expenses “exceeding 30 percent of household income,” in 2015.

At about the same time, the Orange County Register reported that “roughly four of five Southern California homes sold can’t be comfortably bought by locals in 2017.”

“California real estate is so expensive,” Business Insider has declared, “that families, retirees, and even tech workers are living in cars and vans.”

Meanwhile, Slate reports that “in Greater Los Angeles” alone, “which has the largest unsheltered homeless population in the country, more than 15,000 people live in cars, vans, and RVs.”

Down the road a few miles on Interstate 5, “each night at 6 p.m., San Diego’s New Life Assembly church opens its parking lot to dozens of people who will spend the night in their cars. The church is one of three sites in the city where the homeless can park overnight without fear of being ticketed or towed — or worse.”

So, we ask again, why legislate even higher prices? Actually, there’s no mystery. Most California policymakers are obsessed with greenhouse gases. Their dream is for the state to be carbon-free by 2045.

Though their efforts score virtue-signaling points, those efforts are irrelevant. As we’ve said multiple times, there’s nothing this state can do that will affect the climate. With only about 1 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions arising from California, achieving a carbon-free existence is meaningless on any meaningful scale of progress.

While home builders adapt, and more Californians find housing out of their financial reach, Sacramento is looking ahead to the next mandate. Maybe it will require new homes to be built with windmills next to the solar panels. Or mandate that they are rigged with pumps to tap into geothermal energy. That might sound like crazy talk, but it’s not. Carbon madness has set in at the Capitol and there’s no reason to expect it to lift in the foreseeable future.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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