Developers and Unions ‘Not Close’ on Deal to Spur Housing Construction

Back CalMatters Jun 6, 2019 By Matt Levin

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In January, two of the biggest adversaries in California housing politics appeared on the verge of detente.

California developers and the construction unions that build their homes were reportedly near a deal that both sides hoped would unleash a bounty of homebuilding across the state. Developers would agree to employ more unionized carpenters, plumbers and other skilled craft workers on more housing projects at higher wages. And in exchange, construction unions would push for a more streamlined housing approval process yearned for by developers for decades. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration was involved in the negotiations, hoping a deal could spur construction of the 3.5 million new homes Newsom is hoping to build by 2025 to alleviate the state’s housing shortage.

While both sides continue to characterize the negotiations as ongoing, the head of the developers’ primary lobbying group in Sacramento is increasingly pessimistic that a deal can be done anytime soon.

“In my humble opinion, (the negotiations) weren’t close then and unfortunately they’re not close now,” Dan Dunmoyer, president of the California Building Industry Association, said on  “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.”

“In the context of this year, we’re beginning to run out of time. I think the chances this year are pretty slim.”

Cesar Diaz, legislative director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council, said his group will meet with developers in the next two weeks to try to iron out remaining “roadblocks.” While Diaz conceded negotiations have been difficult, he sounded more upbeat on the prospect for compromise.

“This is a huge effort that, to be honest with you, it is very surprising to me how far we have gotten,” said Diaz. “Even though it is five months….We have actually sat down and started negotiating on actual legislative language.”

The inability of developers and labor to reach a deal is the latest example of how hope for ambitious state action on California’s housing woes has been tempered by the reality of Capitol politics. In this episode of “Gimme Shelter,” Matt Levin from CALmatters and Liam Dillon of the Los Angeles Times discuss the death or dilution of several major housing bills before a key legislative deadline last week, and what it means for the future of the state’s housing woes.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California’s policies and politics. Comstock’s magazine is a CALmatters media partner.