CalMatters: Is union labor requirement in the way of easing California’s affordable housing crisis?

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The remains of a Macy’s sign stand above an empty parking lot at Hilltop Mall in Richmond on June 10, 2021. The property was recently purchased by industrial property owners Prologis who, according to SFGate, intend to use the empty property for a mixed-use development including housing. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

California lawmakers introduced several bills this year that would rezone empty strip malls and big box stores across the state to allow for new housing development without undergoing lengthy and costly local approvals.

Two are sailing through the Legislature. The other died early on. A key difference? The successful bills had the support of arguably the most powerful entity in the Capitol on housing issues, the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The other faced its vehement opposition.

The dealbreaker for the unions? If a bill did not require a “skilled and trained workforce,” which means that at least a third of the workers who can build housing on rezoned land must be graduates of apprenticeship programs. 

“We believe in prevailing wages. So the question is not about wages,” said Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. “It’s about which workers are eligible to work on jobs.”

Read more at CalMatters