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New bill gives Attorney General expanded authority to enforce state housing laws in court

Haney’s AB 1485 grants the Attorney General the unconditional, statutory right to represent the state’s interests in lawsuits brought against local governments for violating housing laws

For immediate release:

Sacramento – Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) has introduced legislation that would strengthen the Department of Justice’s ability to hold violators of California housing law accountable in court. Current law requires the Attorney General to petition the court in order to represent the interests of the state in any third party lawsuits brought against a local government for violating state housing laws. AB 1485 strengthens the enforcement of state housing laws by granting the Attorney General the unconditional, statutory right to intervene in any pending third party actions brought against local governments for violating state housing laws.

“The Attorney General has made housing a top priority for the Department of Justice and AB 1485 represents a new era in California housing law,” said Haney. “Our housing crisis is only getting worse and anti-housing local governments are brazenly breaking the law and stopping new housing developments from being built. The state needs every tool available to hold these local governments accountable when they break the law.”

Most of California’s state housing laws include what's called a ”private right of action,” that allows third parties—like housing developers and housing advocacy organizations—to file lawsuits when local governments break housing laws. However, if one of these third parties files a lawsuit against a local government first, current law says the Attorney General may only get involved in the case after formally petitioning to the court for permission to intervene. This process can take months and is ultimately at the sole discretion of the local judge hearing the case.

AB 1485 gives the Attorney General an unconditional, statutory right to intervene in any pending third party actions to redress state housing law violations. This would strengthen the Attorney General’s ability to advance Californians’ access to housing, uphold housing law, hold violators accountable, and ensure that the State’s interests are represented in court without unnecessary delay.

“California is in a housing crisis: Every day, millions of Californians worry about keeping a roof over their head, and too many across this state lack housing altogether," said Attorney General Rob Bonta. "Ensuring that all Californians have access to affordable housing is a top priority for my office, and we’ve been actively working to enforce state housing laws and address our housing crisis. AB 1485 would help these efforts by allowing my office to more easily represent the State’s interests in third-party lawsuits that raise issues of statewide concern regarding the enforcement of state housing laws. Everyone has a part to play when it comes to tackling California’s housing supply and affordability crisis – from local governments, to developers and advocates. AB 1485 is an important tool that would maximize the impact of our common fight to increase housing access, affordability, and equity across California.”

The Housing Action Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for building more homes to help alleviate the Bay Area and California’s housing shortage, is a co-sponsor on the measure. 

“California needs to build 2.5 million homes by 2031,” said Corey Smith, Executive Director of Housing Action Coalition. “Empowering the Attorney General’s office to use every tool necessary to enforce state housing laws ensures that cities across our state will be held accountable for building their fair share of housing.”

“When cities fail to uphold the law, it’s the Attorney General’s role to hold them accountable,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “There are few areas we need accountability more than housing, and AB 1485 takes an important step to allowing the Attorney General to intervene where abuses occur.”