YIMBY supporters of California’s land use reform bill, SB 50, have gained a powerful ally: AARP California. SB 50’s predecessor, SB 827, died in committee last April, so it is refreshing to see an organization with 3.3 million members in California alone getting into the fight.
Elderly Americans are one of the most vulnerable demographics harmed by the rent-seeking of local NIMBYs, so the AARP is a natural coalition partner for upzoning efforts. According to a November report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing studies, local housing problems will only be further exacerbated as the baby boom generation continues to age:
Providing safe, affordable, and accessible housing to the nation’s aging population is an immediate challenge. Many households currently in their 50s and early 60s are not financially prepared for retirement, with lower homeownership rates than their predecessors and meager gains in income and wealth.
SB 50 targets, among other things, job- and transit-rich housing projects, both of which are desirable locations for the elderly. Per the Harvard study, the financial instability of many elders has led to an environment where close to 10 percent of those aged over 75 are either employed or actively seeking jobs. Additionally, a lack of mobility, which proximity to affordable transportation would help solve, limits the quality of life and budgets of elders. These were two factors specifically mentioned in the AARP announcement:
The More HOMES Act will empower communities with new tools that help accelerate home building near transit stations, and in areas with abundant economic and educational opportunities for workers and families.
The bill would also increase the supply of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are particularly useful in housing elders. Localities have been able to retain control over the production of ADUs despite reform efforts at the state level, as Niskanen Center senior fellow David Schleicher has written about.
For SB 50 supporters, a partnership with AARP is a big coup. They have shown the ability to dispatch huge numbers of volunteers and financial support, as well as having the ear of policymakers. They can only be a useful force in turning the current momentum that is building up in California into meaningful land-use reform.