"Housing has a public relations problem." This quotation comes from one of housing's smartest analysts, Dowell Myers, one of five "deans" who will lead our HIVE conversations on Sept. 28 and 29, at LA Live/JW Marriott in Los Angeles. Myers is a University of Southern California professor, a demographics and urban planning sage whose insight is sought at the highest level of housing policy development.

Dowell Myers, PhD
Dowell Myers, PhD

Apropos of Myers' assertion, Los Angeles Times staffer Liam Dillon writes about California Gov. Jerry Brown’s profoundly ill-fated plan to cut through local regulatory red-tape and costs in exchange for residential developers' agreement to include below market-rate housing in new projects.

Dillon writes:

... the proposal the governor unveiled in May represented a profound shakeup in how the development process would have worked in California. The measure challenged the primacy of local control over housing, inflamed powerful entrenched interests, and was eyed warily by the very groups representing those the plan was supposed to help.

Because of the resistance, Brown’s effort became so unpopular in the state capitol that not one of 120 lawmakers was willing to publicly stand behind it.

We'd have to agree with Myers' assessment. Gov. Brown's plan ran afoul of too many hard-wired interests to get anywhere with elected officials. The governor, quite democratically, offended almost every interest group in the book with an audacious plan that makes too much common sense. So it died, despite a $400 million inducement to get all the opposing forces to sit at a table and come to an agreement that would result in more home construction, period.

Meanwhile, where housing could be a local economic solution—a jobs multiplier as well as a community stabilizer, with enough inventory at multiple price points to include a wide income spectrum—it's instead a source of polarization and unsustainable pricing trends. People get screwed as average home prices in the state hover toward $470,000. Politicians look dumb. Special interest groups come out looking greedy and short-sighted. And builders and developers get a bad rap, and act like victims.

When public relations works, it moves unmoving blocs of people from a fixed position to a more pliable mode that can change an outcome. That's the work housing's players need to do, which is why we're launching the HIVE conversation at Hiveforhousing.com.

Just because it can't be done doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.