California Legislators Tackle Affordable Housing with Flurry of Proposed Bills

March 29, 2019 Articles

The California legislative session is currently underway, and several bills related to housing creation are being considered through the committee hearing process. Legislators representing San Francisco and other Bay Area cities and counties have made it their mission to tackle housing issues with a renewed sense of urgency this year.

Some of the bills being considered this session include:

“More HOMES Act” – SB 50 
Following last year’s attempt to increase housing development capacity statewide via SB 827, Senator Scott Wiener sponsored a similar bill that:

  • Provides a development bonus and waivers (for standards related to density, parking, and height, among others) on qualifying proposed projects near transit (within ½ to ¼ mile) and “job-rich” areas if the project meets the specified on-site affordable housing requirement (applies to projects with 10 or more units); and
  • In areas around rail and ferry stops, the bill would prohibit local government from enforcing height limits and floor area ratio controls below a specified minimum on qualifying projects.

One key difference between SB 50 and SB 827 is the addition of a “jobs rich” category that would allow for greater geographic applicability of SB 50. Each “jobs rich” area would be identified by the Department of Housing and Community Development, and would be based on employment density and job totals and whether new housing in the area would enable shorter commute distances for residents as compared to existing commute levels. Another key difference is the bill’s deference to local height limits (except near fixed rail stops).

As noted by the San Francisco Planning Department in their staff report presented on March 14, 2019, SB 50 allows project sponsors to request the State Density Bonus Law on top of any development incentives offered under SB 50, and that density and height above existing local zoning offered by SB 50 would be considered the new “base” project on which a project sponsor would be able to request up to 35% additional density.

Strategic Housing Bills – SB 4, SB 5, and SB 6 
Senators Jim Beall and Mike McGuire introduced a package of bills that they consider a “strategic approach to infill, workforce affordable housing through California without taking a one-size-fits-all approach.” 

  • SB 4 aims to encourage increased housing development near transit and job centers through allowing a streamlined, ministerial approval process for multifamily (up to two units in non-urban community, and up to four units in urban community) or eligible Transit Oriented Development projects located on eligible parcels.
  • SB 5 was designed to fill the affordable housing gap created by the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in 2012. The bill provides immediate funding for local governments to collaborate on state-approved community revitalization plans. It would require up to $2 billion in annual state investment. Fifty percent of the funds must support affordable housing.
  • SB 6 would require the state to identify adequate sites for housing construction and make this database available online for the public.

“Housing Crisis Act of 2019” – SB 330
Senator Nancy Skinner introduced a bill designed to speed up the creation of new housing by suspending certain local permitting rules and regulations until 2030. Most notably, SB 330 would prohibit cities and counties from:

  • Reducing the number of units that can be built on a parcel;
  • Establishing housing moratoriums or caps on new housing construction or on building permits and zoning variances;
  • Raising housing fees, increasing or enforcing parking minimums, or enacting costly design standards; and
  • Conducting more than three public hearings for a proposed project in a 12-month period (at which point the city or county needs to approve or disapprove the project).

Community Redevelopment – AB 11
Assemblyman David Chiu, along with a coalition of legislators from throughout the state, have introduced a bill to “restore” some powers and responsibilities of redevelopment agencies after statewide dissolution of all prior redevelopment agencies in 2012. The bill would allow cities and counties to create agencies that would use tax increment financing to fund affordable housing and infrastructure projects. AB 11 intends for these new redevelopment agencies to not only focus on housing and infrastructure projects, but also prioritization of affordable housing and sustainable growth. Newly formed redevelopment agencies would be required to set aside 30 percent of funding for the creation, improvement, and rehabilitation of affordable housing.

Accessory Dwelling Units – AB 68, AB 69, AB 587, AB 881, and SB 13
Laws focused on accessory dwelling units (ADU) are extremely popular this session. 

  • AB 68 & AB 69 – With these bills, Assemblymember Phil Ting hopes to reduce the approval timeline for ADUs to 60 days; prohibit restrictive local requirements pertaining to lot size and parking; allow more types of units, such as units in multi-family dwelling, to be approved with less bureaucratic review; and make construction of ADUs more cost-effective and safe through creation of a Small Home Building Standards Code.
  • AB 587 – Assemblymember Laura Friedman seeks to create a narrow exemption for affordable housing organizations, with the consent of the local jurisdiction, to sell ADUs (separately from the primary residence) on deed-restricted lands to eligible low-income homeowners.
  • AB 881 – This bill, introduced by Senator Richard Bloom, provides updates and clarifies state ADU law to prevent confusion at the local level. The bill clarifies where ADUs may be permitted; removes provision authorizing a local agency to require owner-occupancy as a condition of issuing a permit; requires a local agency to ministerially approve an ADU permit application that is contained within an existing structure; and would allow a local agency to reduce or eliminate parking standards for ADUs if the ADU is located within ½ traversable or walkable mile of public transit.
  • SB 13 – Senator Bob Wieckowski builds on his previous measure from last year, further seeking to ease the creation of ADUs by prohibiting a local agency from requiring the replacement of parking spaces if a garage or carport is converted into an ADU, and prohibiting a local agency from imposing parking requirements on ADUs located within ½ mile of public transit. It also requires a local agency to consider and approve an ADU application ministerially and without discretionary review within 60 days after receiving the application – otherwise, the application shall be deemed approved.

With these bills (and more), the 2019-2020 state legislative season promises to be an interesting one to follow, and we will continue to keep you posted as the process unfolds.

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