Legislation will target under-performing housing production cities to address California’s housing shortage
Sacramento, CA—Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) announced a bill today that would ensure cities follow through on their local housing plans and are accountable for meeting their housing goals. Assembly Bill 215 would provide more oversight on local housing production progress and put under-performing cities on a pathway to becoming high-performing housing production cities.
“We have to ensure that local housing plans don’t just sit on a shelf collecting dust,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “To address the housing crisis, we have to make sure cities follow through on their plans. While some cities are striving mightily, others are lagging, and this bill is about ensuring that all cities do what they say they are going to do.”
California has a severe and well-documented housing shortage. The result has been sky-high housing costs, displacement, and homelessness. While the reasons for the housing shortage are numerous and complex, local policies that stop housing development are a significant driver of the shortage.
In an attempt to ensure adequate housing is built in the state, the California state government undertakes the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process. In the RHNA process, the state determines an eight-year housing production target for the state for different income levels, then divides that goal up amongst the state’s regions, whose councils of governments then assign each city their share. The RHNA process gives every government a goal of how many housing units are needed at different affordability levels to meet the demand of the population. Local cities then create “housing elements” or housing plans that ensure they have adequate zoning, plans, and programs to accommodate that amount of housing at all income levels. The state is required to review these housing elements to ensure they conform with state law.
However, once these housing elements are adopted, there is no process to ensure that they are implemented or effective, until the cycle begins again eight years later. As such, despite the lengthy process cities undertake to approve these plans, cities are not held accountable to their plans or asked to revise them if their plans prove ineffective. This is one reason that historically, most cities have not met their housing goals.
AB 215 would require the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to have a consultation halfway through the eight-year RHNA cycle with cities where housing production is below the regional average. The consultation would focus on ensuring that plans and programs are implemented, effective, and actionable.
Cities where housing production is ten percent or more below the regional average would have to update their local ordinances in order to receive a “pro-housing designation.” This designation is awarded by HCD to cities that update their local laws to facilitate housing production, and the designation makes cities eligible for greater state funding. To achieve the pro-housing designation, cities would choose from a menu of policy options that ease housing production. This set of policy options is currently being finalized by HCD, but could include zoning for more residential development, increasing allowable density, reducing parking requirements, adopting accessory dwelling unit policies, decreasing permit processing time, and lessening development impact fees.
Additionally, AB 215 gives the California Attorney General’s office more authority to enforce the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (SB 330), which prohibited cities from reducing overall development capacity or permitting the demolition of housing without replacement.
The California Housing Consortium is sponsoring AB 215.
“Assemblymember Chiu has been a leader for years in developing successful strategies for addressing California’s housing crisis,” said Ray Pearl, Executive Director of the California Housing Consortium. “With the state facing a shortfall of at least 1.3 million affordable homes — and with more than 161,000 Californians living on the streets — this bill takes another important step toward ensuring every region is making progress toward closing these gaps. This legislation will not only improve the state’s ability to keep tabs on affordable housing production, it will also offer timely, targeted support to jurisdictions falling behind their housing targets — helping every community stay on track to build the affordable housing California needs.”
AB 215 is expected to be heard in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 15.