Assembly Leaders Push for Increased Housing Production

Friday, June 19, 2020

Package of legislation passed by the Assembly would spur housing creation in California

Sacramento, CA--Members of the California State Assembly advanced a package of housing production bills this week. The proposals increase the amount of housing that is allowed in California and make the housing approval process quicker and smoother.

“These housing production bills continue the affordable housing progress we've made in recent years,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). “I'm proud that we are continuing this despite the state's current difficulties, because now it is more important than ever to ensure that we have adequate housing for every Californian.”

“The Assembly is putting forward creative solutions to address our housing shortage,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. “We are working towards a future where California has enough housing to accommodate all those who wish to live here.”

California’s housing crisis is in part a result of the state’s decades-long failure to build enough housing to accommodate its residents. The demand for housing exceeds the supply by millions of housing units, leaving Californians to grapple with high rental costs, overcrowded conditions, long commutes, an intense homelessness crisis, and homeownership that is out of reach for most.

There are a multitude of reasons California has not built enough housing. Restrictive zoning policies that limit the amount of housing that can be built and arduous approval processes that slow down construction of housing are two main factors. The Assembly bills that were passed and now await votes by the Senate aim to address these two issues so that more housing is available and affordable to Californians.

Certain infill projects are supposed to be exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but the exemptions are often vague and inconsistent. As a result, housing developers rarely use these exemptions, and the housing approval process is slowed. Assembly Bill 2323 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) would ensure CEQA exemptions are clear and practical so that well-planned housing is not unnecessarily delayed.

Assembly Bill 3279 by Assemblymember Friedman would facilitate quicker resolutions to CEQA lawsuits by allowing courts to hear CEQA litigation sooner and speed up the time allotted to file petitions and compile the administrative record.

“California faces an unprecedented housing crisis, so it is especially important that we ensure that well-planned projects are not slowed down by excessive litigation or inconsistent exemptions,” said Assemblymember Friedman. “With these bills, we’ve found common ground where our climate goals and principles are aligned with our goals for housing production.”

As communities of faith have stepped up and expressed interest in developing affordable housing on their parking lots and excess land, they have run into major hurdles in the approval process. Assembly Bill 1851 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) will help spur affordable housing production by reducing parking requirements on church parking lots for qualified projects.

Recognizing that housing affordable to the “missing middle” is often overlooked, Assembly Bill 725 by Assemblymember Wicks would increase the amount of land zoned for moderate-income households. This will allow more neighborhoods to add to the housing stock in a cost-effective manner and accommodate multiple income levels.

“This year’s housing package embodies a series of incremental yet impactful changes that will ease production pressures without making drastic changes to neighborhoods, and allow California communities to be part of the solution to our housing crisis,” said Assemblymember Wicks. “Bills like AB 725, my ‘missing middle’ bill that requires cities to plan for more small-scale multifamily buildings (duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes). AB 1851, my bill that will allow churches to convert underused parking spaces to build much-needed housing on their properties, will expand our available housing supply across the state, and ensure that Californians at all income levels have access to the same opportunities.”

Assembly Bill 1279 by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) would increase the amount of housing available by allowing denser and taller developments in areas that have good jobs and schools and are not at risk of gentrification. By allowing more multi-family developments in exclusive areas, this bill addresses our overall housing shortage while creating more inclusive, diverse neighborhoods.

Assembly Bill 3107 by Assemblymember Bloom recognizes that commercial corridors have tremendous potential to accommodate affordable housing development. This bill allows housing to be developed on commercially-zoned land on projects where at least 20 percent of the units are affordable to low-income households.

''Our efforts to build more housing will benefit from more available sites and all communities doing their fair share,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “AB 1279 will remove land use barriers to housing development in areas where we know from data and mapping that there is an acute lack of affordable housing available, yet many jobs nearby. AB 3107 will increase opportunities for new housing by allowing affordable housing on commercial sites closer to public transit and job centers."

Assembly Bill 2345 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) would enhance state density bonus law making the program more useful to developers and increasing production of affordable housing. Under the bill, developers would be able to seek increased concessions and a 50 percent increase in density leading to more affordable units.

“California’s housing crisis did not hit pause because of the coronavirus,” said Assemblymember Gonzalez. “We must take bold action to ensure we’re building a state that all of California’s families can afford to live in. AB 2345 would scale San Diego’s successful density bonus program statewide to boost housing production and increase incentives to build affordable housing units across the state.”

Assembly Bill 3040 by Assemblymember Chiu incentivizes cities to upzone to allow for fourplexes in neighborhoods currently zoned solely for single family housing. This bill spurs housing production and makes single family neighborhoods more inclusive by giving local governments additional RHNA credits when they up-zone single-family parcels to allow four housing units per parcel by right.

“Much single family zoning came out of exclusionary policies like redlining, and we still see the negative impacts of those discriminatory policies today,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “By incentivizing cities to allow other types of housing in these neighborhoods, we simultaneously address our housing shortage and create more diverse, inclusive communities.”

All of the bills in the package have passed the Assembly floor and are awaiting votes in Senate policy committees. 

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