Senate Passes Package of Bills to Address California Housing Crisis Pass State Senate

June 02, 2017

SACRAMENTO – On Thursday the California State Senate passed a package of consequential legislation aimed at alleviating the state’s growing housing crisis. The bills in all streamline regulations at the state and local level to speed up housing construction; create new funding for affordable housing; and increase access to housing for working Californians.

“The state must take action to combat the severe lack of affordable housing that has made it virtually impossible for working families to own a home or find a reasonably priced apartment,’’ Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), author of a $3 billion bond to generate more affordable housing, SB 3, said. “Senate Bill 3 allows California to leverage nearly $11 billion in available federal funding to stimulate the creation of thousands of homes and apartments that middle- and low-income earners can buy or rent. Housing for veterans and the homeless is also a bill priority.’’

Another important Senate proposal to create new funding for housing, SB 2 by Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), was not subject to this week’s bill deadline but will come up at a later date. California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) will prioritize the measure in negotiations with the Assembly and Governor and is committed to sending it to Governor Brown’s desk this year.

“The Senate has shown great leadership passing a substantive housing package,” stated Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), author of SB 166 and SB 167. “A significant part of California’s housing crisis is lack of supply. SB 166 and SB 167 help minimize obstacles to building new housing.”

SB 166 amends California’s existing “No Net Loss” zoning law, ensuring that cities maintain an ongoing supply of identified sites for housing construction at each income level. SB 167 complements SB 166 by ensuring more housing is built once sites are identified. SB 167 strengthens the state’s existing Housing Accountability Act (HAA), which limits a local entity’s ability to stall a housing project that otherwise satisfies city planning and zoning requirements.

“California’s housing shortage is harming our state’s economy, environment, and quality of life,” said Senator Wiener (D-San Francisco), author of SB 35. “By not building enough housing, we are driving up evictions and homelessness, pushing people out of our state, and jeopardizing the success of young people. We can no longer ignore this crisis. Today the Senate took a huge step forward in recognizing that fixing our housing crisis requires real change in how we approve and create housing. SB 35 will make it easier and faster to build housing throughout California and will stop the obstruction of housing that is all too common in California. Each city needs to play its part in creating housing so young people can live in the communities where they grew up, and so workers can live near their jobs instead of being forced into crushing commutes.”

Senate Bill 35 will create a streamlined approval process for housing when cities are not meeting the housing creation goals required by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Under SB 35, if cities aren’t on track to meet those goals, then approval of projects will be streamlined if they meet a set of objective criteria, including affordability, density, zoning, historic, and environmental standards, and if they meet rigorous standards for construction labor.

Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), author of SB 277 said, “California has an undeniable affordable housing shortage.  We must help all Californians have access to affordable places for them and their families.  SB 277 allows developers and local governments to work together to develop realistic affordable housing solutions. I’m pleased to have this bill included in the Senate’s comprehensive housing package.”

SB 277 would allow local governments to adopt ordinances that would require as a condition of the development of residential rental units a certain percentage of affordable rental units.

Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside), author of SB 540, said: "Access to housing is a basic human need, yet California is home to one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation, and many Californians are unable to afford to rent or own a home. That’s why I am proud to author Senate Bill 540, a commonsense measure which will incentivize and streamline housing construction to help solve our state’s dire housing shortage”

SB 540, which is sponsored by the League of California Cities, allows for a single environmental review to be completed for all projects within specific areas identified by cities and counties as Workforce Housing Zones, streamlining the environmental review process and incentivizing housing construction in these zones. Extensive environmental reviews for these zones would be conducted at the front-end, providing developers with a clear picture of the conditions for development (including traffic mitigation measures, parking requirements, design review standards and environmental mitigation). By some estimates, SB 540 would shave off one to two years off the development timeline.