California announced a sweeping rooftop solar mandate earlier this month. The first-in-the-nation policy will require all newly-constructed homes and small apartments to have solar panels on their roofs starting in 2020. It’s a radical move that amounts to save the planet, screw the poor. Things don’t have to be this way, though. There are climate policies at California’s disposal that could also help solve some of the state’s other major problems, namely a dearth of affordable housing, and transit-oriented infrastructure. And they could be more effective at reducing carbon emissions than rooftop solar, to boot. The median listing price in California is $515,000 as of March (the solar panel mandate will add another $9,500, which homeowners are expected to make back over time in lower utility bills). In Los Angeles alone, a recent report indicates the city needs nearly 570,000 units of affordable housing to satisfy current demand. Meanwhile, the transportation sector is responsible for 39 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, easily the largest share of the pie. These two issues work hand-in-hand against the working poor, with people moving further from their jobs as they get priced out. And of course, the cheapest areas to live in California’s expensive cities happen to be near freeways and busy roads, exposing lower income residents—largely people of color—to more air pollution. Building more dense, transit-oriented housing is one simple fix that would reduce residential and transportation emissions. Ethan Elkind, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, co-authored a study last year… [Read full story]
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