Approved Bills Seek to Boost Production in State Hardest Hit by Affordability Problems
By Lou Hirsh CoStar News September 28, 2020 | 4:38 P.M.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 15 bills into law targeting the state’s shortage of affordable housing, including measures aimed at building near public transit and providing density bonuses to developers.
The approvals follow the governor’s decision to extend eviction moratoriums through the end of January, as the coronavirus pandemic has added increased urgency to the state’s serious problems related to homelessness and a low supply of housing that is affordable to working families as prices rise.
“While the pandemic has dominated the news, millions of California families continue to struggle to afford housing,” Newsom said in a statement. “This is a crisis that never went away and this housing package will directly lead to more affordable opportunities for renters and homeowners.”
As prices climbed and construction failed to keep up with population growth over the past 20 years, major California cities were left trailing the number of affordable units needed by working families, housing studies show. State agencies have estimated that California is at least 3.5 million units short of the number needed to meet current needs.
Developers contend that the long costly approval process and other bureaucratic red tape, coupled with resistance by local residents, have contributed to making development very difficult in the state.
The lack of housing and skyrocketing costs of existing units helped create the nation’s largest contingent of homeless people in California, and three of its cities – Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego – rank among the nation’s top five for the size of their homeless populations, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The new housing initiatives include a measure to provide new rights for tenants to buy homes facing foreclosure, and others that ease the development of accessory dwelling units and housing for school district employees.
Among the measures signed was Assembly Bill 2345, aimed at encouraging development of affordable apartments by giving developers statewide up to a 50% “density bonus,” which allows developers to exceed current local standards in certain cases where they plan to build units at below-market rates. It raises the maximum bonus from the current 35%. The measure also gives local governments discretion to grant additional waivers for projects located within a half-mile of transit or built to be 100% affordable under regional median household income standards.
“This law will encourage the construction of more affordable housing units using a data-proven mix of incentives and density bonuses,” said the bill’s Assembly author, San Diego Democrat Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, in a statement responding to the governor’s signing.
Newsom also signed Senate Bill 1079, originally authored by Democrat Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, giving tenants, families, local governments and housing-related nonprofit organizations an opportunity to buy foreclosed homes before large corporations are provided the chance to purchase them in large quantities.
Also signed was SB 288, from Democrat Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, aimed at expediting housing and other projects involving transit elements such as new bike lanes, pedestrian routes, bus services or zero-emission infrastructure like vehicle charging stations. The law limits the ability of a few individuals to delay projects through requests for reviews under state environmental guidelines.
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