Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown signs new California affordable housing laws

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a robust package of housing legislation aimed at addressing California’s unprecedented affordability crisis.

“These new laws will help cut red tape and encourage more affordable housing, including shelter for the growing number of homeless in California,” Brown said in a statement.

He signed the bills at the Hunter’s View public housing project in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, with the Bay Bridge as a backdrop.

“Today, you can be sure we got 15 good bills. Have they ended the need for further legislation? Unfortunately not,” Brown said.

The event followed months of intense negotiations between Brown and legislative Democrats. The package, 15 bills in total, cleared the state Senate and Assembly earlier this month as Democrats – joined by Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein on one key measure – pushed through the largest legislative package on housing in memory.

“This package has everything from A to Z – affordability to zoning,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a statement. “It’s not a magic wand, but it is going to put a lot of drafting tools, backhoes, hammers and door keys to work.”

State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, an author of one of the major bills in the package, said the state has only begun to address its housing challenges.

“This is a necessary and critical first start,” she said.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, pledged to do more next year.

“Today, California begins a pivot ... I am happy to hear my colleagues (say) this is the beginning, not the end, because I have some bills for you next year,” Wiener said.

The housing bills provide new funding for low-income housing development, seek to lower the cost of construction, fast-track building, and restrict the ability of cities and counties to block new development. Here’s a rundown of the bills in the package:

Senate Bill 2, Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego: Imposes a new $75 to $225 fee on real estate transactions. Estimated to generate $250 to $300 million per year to fund affordable housing development, programs to assist homeless people and long-range development planning in cities and counties. For 2018, revenue would be split equally between the state and local government. The state share is specifically aimed at combating homelessness. It’s available for rental assistance, homeless navigation centers and development of housing for homeless people.

Senate Bill 3, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose: Will put a $4 billion housing bond before voters in November 2018. If approved, $1 billion would go to the CalVet home loan program, established in 1921 to help military veterans purchase homes. The remaining $3 billion would help fund low-income housing projects and development near jobs and public transportation.

Senate Bill 35, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco: Lets developers bypass the lengthy and often expensive review process for new housing development, which includes extensive environmental analysis and public hearings. If a community has not built enough housing – state law outlines the housing needs, at all income levels, for each city and county in California – developers can bring forth a project without undergoing the process. It mandates higher construction worker pay and benefits on projects with 10 units or more.

Senate Bill 166, Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley: Requires local government to have development sites identified, at all times, for all unmet housing needs, from very low-income to market-rate. It also seeks to strengthen state housing law that in most cases prevents cities and counties from reducing zoning densities to ensure there is “no net loss” of building capacity.

Senate Bill 167, Skinner, and Assembly Bill 678, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles: Strengthens the state’s Housing Accountability Act, which seeks to prevent communities from killing proposed housing projects or homeless shelters. The law aims to make it more difficult for cities and counties to vote down proposals and requires courts to impose fines on them if they do not comply with what is commonly called the “anti-NIMBY law.” That law seeks to limit the “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” backlash from neighbors and anti-development activists that often stalls new development or reduces the size of a project.

Senate Bill 540, Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside: Allows cities and counties to create pre-planned zones for affordable housing, helping to speed development in city centers close to jobs and public transit. Proposals that come forward must have: 30 percent of all units sold or rented to moderate-income households, 15 percent sold or rented to low-income households, 5 percent sold or rented to very low-income households and 10 percent of market-rate projects set aside for low-income people.

Assembly Bill 72, Assemblymen David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles: Gives state housing officials new authority to report violations to the attorney general if jurisdictions are not complying with their own housing plans or violate state law.

Assembly Bill 73, Chiu: Allows cities and counties to designate so-called “housing sustainability districts,” which streamline the development process for new housing near transit. It seeks to speed any lawsuit challenging an environmental review through the courts and mandates at least 20 percent of housing within a district to be affordable to low-income people.

Assembly Bill 571, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella: Expands the state’s low-income tax credit program, which helps fund low-income housing development, to farmworker housing.

Assembly Bill 879, Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord: Changes California’s housing element law, which requires cities and counties to plan for new development at all income levels. Requires cities and counties to address and, where legally possible, remove hurdles to housing production. For example, it seeks to reduce the amount of time between receiving approval for a housing development and pulling permits to begin construction.

Assembly Bill 1397, Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell: Requires cities and counties to zone land that can realistically support housing development. It requires the residential parcels to have access to sufficient infrastructure for water, sewer and other public utilities.

Assembly Bill 1505, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica: Lets cities and counties mandate that a portion – at least 15 percent – of units in market-rate housing be set aside as affordable to low- or moderate-income people.

Assembly Bill 1515, Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim: Makes it harder for cities and counties to vote down housing projects or emergency shelters that meet existing zoning and other land-use regulations by strengthening the Housing Accountability Act. Also makes it harder for community groups to kill projects.

Assembly Bill 1521, Bloom: Seeks to preserve existing affordable housing by strengthening state law that requires public notification when low-income housing protections expire and units can be converted to market-rate.

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to reflect that Assemblyman Brian Maienschein of San Diego wasn’t the sole Republican to vote in favor of the housing bills.

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