California Governor Signs 15 Affordable Housing Bills
By John Wildermuth
Surrounded by a crowd of Democratic mayors and legislators Friday morning, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a wide-ranging package of 15 bills designed to bring some relief to the statewide housing crisis.
Enthusiastic housing advocates and business leaders also joined the governor for the outdoor bill-signing ceremony in a pocket park at Hunters View, a new mixed-income housing development on the hills of Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco.
"This is the biggest bill-signing I've ever seen, and it's because it deals with something as basic as shelter," the governor said. "It was a big challenge, and we've risen to it this year."
But the governor also stressed that many of the problems the new bills are designed to ease were caused by the same local and state officials now cheering the improvements.
Things like tough zoning restrictions, requirements for clean air and green energy, multiple rules for construction and a variety of other laws dealing with housing are all good things in themselves, he said. But they combine to build up red tape that can make it harder to build affordable housing, he argued.
"All these rules were passed by people like you, and they're all good stuff," Brown said. "But I've always said too many goods can create a bad."
But that didn't dampen the excitement of people delighted to see the state recognizing the need for dramatic measures to deal with the state's growing housing problems.
"There is no corner of the state that doesn't need affordable housing," said Tim Frank, director of the Center for Affordable Neighborhoods in Berkeley. "There's no silver bullet to deal with the state's housing crisis, but this is a big first step."
The legislators who joined Brown around the small desk where he signed the bills stressed that the housing problem reaches far beyond the low-income homeless.
"As a former mayor, I can't afford a home in the community where I live and that I represent," said Assemblyman Evan Low, who served as mayor of Campbell. "We need to increase the supply of housing and streamline the approval process."
For San Francisco legislators like Assemblyman David Chiu and state Sen. Scott Wiener, the bill-signing was the culmination of years of effort to improve the state's housing situation.
"I've been working on this since my first day in office," said Chiu, a former San Francisco supervisor who was elected to the Assembly in 2014. "We've had some setbacks, but we kept working."
Wiener warned that there's still plenty more to do to deal with the housing crisis.
"This is the beginning, not the end," he said, promising that he will be introducing more housing bills. "We can't just check this box and move on to something else."
The Legislature passed the 15 bills in the housing package on the last day of the session two weeks ago.
One of those bills, SB2 by state Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, creates a permanent source of funding for affordable housing.
The permanent funding is estimated to generate $200 million to $300 million a year through a $75 to $225 recording fee on real estate documents and some property transactions, not including home sales. Most of the money goes to local governments to build housing, make existing housing more affordable and create permanent or temporary shelters.
The bill was a priority for advocates who said the state needed to create a permanent source of funding to begin to replace $1 billion a year in lost redevelopment agency money.
A Public Policy Institute of California survey released Wednesday found that less than half of adults support the fee, though 64 percent of those polled said they favor building more housing in their cities.
Voters will decide next year whether to approve a housing bond. SB3, by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, will ask voters to approve $4 billion in general obligation bonds to build rental housing for low-income families and to fund other existing housing programs. The bond will set aside $1 billion for the state's veteran home-loan program, which would otherwise run out of money in 2018.
Among the other bills signed was SB35 by Wiener, which pushes reluctant cities into approving housing projects. Dozens of cities opposed the measure, arguing that it undermined local land use decisions.
SB167, by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will make it harder for local governments to deny housing projects.
AB1505, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, will allow local governments to require developers to set aside a certain percentage of affordable rental units in new construction.
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Melody Gutierrez contributed to this report.
Here are the 15 bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday. To read the full bills, go to leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
SB2 by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, establishes a permanent funding source for affordable housing through a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents. The fee is capped at $225 per transaction and exempts real estate sales. The fees would generate roughly $250 million a year, which would be split among state and local housing programs.
SB3 by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, authorizes $4 billion in general obligation bonds for affordable housing programs and a veterans' homeownership program. SB3 will be up for approval by voters in November 2018.
SB35 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, streamlines the approval process for infill developments in local communities that have failed to meet their regional housing needs.
SB166 by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, ensures that cities maintain an ongoing supply of housing construction sites for residents of various income levels.
SB167 by Skinner and AB678 by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima (Los Angeles County), increase the standard of proof required for a local government to justify a denial of low- and moderate-income housing development projects.
SB540 by Sen. Richard D. Roth, D-Riverside, streamlines the environmental review process for certain local affordable housing projects.
AB72 by Assemblymen Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and David Chiu, D-San Francisco, strengthens the state's ability to enforce laws that require local governments to achieve housing goals.
AB73 by Chiu gives local governments incentives to create housing on infill sites near public transportation.
AB571 by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, makes it easier to develop farmworker housing by easing qualifications for the Farmworker Housing Tax Credit.
AB879 by Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord, authorizes a study of local fees charged to new residential developments that will also include a proposal to substantially reduce such fees.
AB1397 by Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, makes changes to the definition of land suitable for residential development to increase the number of sites where new multifamily housing can be built.
AB1505 authorizes cities and counties to adopt an inclusionary ordinance for residential rental units in order to create affordable housing. By Chiu, Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena (Los Angeles County), and Assemblymen Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, and Todd Gloria, D-San Diego.
AB1515 by Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, allows housing projects to be afforded the protections of the Housing Accountability Act if the project is consistent with local planning rules despite local opposition.
AB1521 by Bloom and Chiu gives experienced housing organizations a first right of refusal to purchase affordable housing developments in order to keep the units affordable.
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