Governor Signs Legislation Hoping to Tackle Affordable Housing

Governor Newsom signs affordable housing legislation in Oakland.

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Oakland, CA – Facing down a pervasive housing crisis, Governor Newsom on Tuesday signed 31 affordable housing bills focused on cutting red tape and holding cities accountable for providing their fair share of housing.

The governor’s effort was intended to complement his $22 billion housing affordability and homelessness package in hopes of spurring housing production, tackling barriers to construction and holding local governments accountable.  The governor said that “the actions represent a comprehensive housing vision and the state’s commitment to create more affordable housing, faster and cheaper.”

Among the headliners, the California Comeback Plan funds $22 billion in order to create over 84,000 new housing units that would be used to help people exit from homelessness.  The governor announced a new Housing Accountability Unit at HCD to support local jurisdictions’ efforts to create housing.

The program also funds a new $100 million grant program for low- to moderate-income homeowners to build accessory dwelling units.  And the administration has advanced $800 million in new or accelerated funding to build affordable, climate-friendly housing and infrastructure.

“The acute affordability crisis we are experiencing in California was decades in the making, and now we’re taking the necessary steps to fix it,” said Governor Newsom, who signed the legislation at an affordable housing development in Oakland today.

The governor added, “This package of smart, bipartisan legislation boosts housing production in California – more streamlining, more local accountability, more affordability, more density. These bills, plus this year’s historic budget investments in affordable housing, will directly lead to more inclusive neighborhoods across the state. Creating denser housing near jobs, parks and schools is key to meeting our climate goals as well as our affordability goals.”

In order to prioritize the tackling of the housing crisis, the comprehensive package focuses on four key areas: streamlining the building of new homes, breaking down barriers to build more affordable housing, addressing systemic bias by elevating fair housing principles, and holding local governments accountable to do their job.

The California Comeback Plan included “a $10.3 billion budget investment for affordable housing that will enable the creation of more than 40,000 new affordable homes for low-income Californians.”

These investments include “$850 million for incentivizing infill development and smart growth, $800 million to preserve the state’s affordable housing stock, $100 million to promote affordable homeownership and significant funding to scale up the state’s efforts to create more Accessory Dwelling Units, build more housing on state-owned excess land, and investments in farmworker housing.”

Among some of the other bills signed was SB 478 by Senator Scott Wiener.

“SB 478 is a nerd bill, but it’s an important one that protects local zoned density from being undermined by back door loopholes,” said Senator Wiener. “Small, multi-unit housing – prior to SB 478 – could be prevented even allowed by local zoning code because of onerous and unnecessary restrictions on square footage and lot size. Now, with the passage of SB 9 and SB 10, SB 478 will ensure we can actually build the small, multi-unit housing that we need so badly across the state. SB 478 is wonky, but it will help us make a dent in our housing crisis.”

He also signed Senator Nancy Skinner’s SB 290, which will update the state’s density bonus law to support more affordable housing, particularly for low-income college students.

“These new housing laws open the door for thousands more housing units at every affordability level and include measures to help hold local governments accountable. Together, plus the unprecedented $24-plus billion the governor and Legislature put in the budget for housing, shows that California is the national leader in the effort to build housing for all,” said Senator Skinner. “And my bill, SB 290, gives housing developers more incentives to build affordable units for low-income college students, many of whom now are homeless or living in their cars.”

Governor Newsom announced the launch of California’s new Housing Accountability Unit (HAU) at the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

According to the governor’s release, “The new HAU will work with local municipalities to provide technical assistance to jurisdictions to aid their efforts to comply with state legislation mandating housing creation, including zoning and permitting. The HAU will also be empowered to take escalating enforcement steps to bring municipalities into compliance with their RHNA goals in the event of persistent non-compliance.

“It is absolutely imperative to meet these housing goals if we are serious about building an equitable future,” said Governor Newsom. “And it is similarly imperative to meet these housing targets because unaffordable housing leads to hours-long car commutes – directly inhibiting our efforts to meet our climate goals. Creating denser housing closer to major employment hubs is critical to limiting California’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

The state is also taking action to address the interrelated problems of climate change and housing affordability with programs to transform neighborhoods into transit-oriented, affordable communities with a focus on limiting California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In the governor’s announced was a doubling of funding available in the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program for projects promoting dense, transit-oriented development.

They announced, “The California Strategic Growth Council took action to increase available funding for the current award round from $405 million to $785 million by accelerating funds that were planned for future award rounds. The AHSC program has invested over $1.1 billion across the state through 104 sustainable projects, creating over 9,000 affordable units and reducing 2.13 million tonnes of emissions over the projects’ operating lives.”

In addition, the governor signed legislation last week to add $420 million over three years to support the Strategic Growth Council’s Transformative Climate Communities Program, which provides large community-scale grants to transform low-income neighborhoods into transit-oriented, complete, affordable communities with a focus on greenhouse gas reduction.

In the coming days, the governor’s office announced that “the Governor will sign a package of bills to continue to confront California’s homelessness crisis – one of the most persistent challenges facing the state.”


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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4 thoughts on “Governor Signs Legislation Hoping to Tackle Affordable Housing”

  1. Richard_McCann

    Based on the discussions at the Finance & Budget Commission and on this site, I think the real solution to the housing crisis is to reallocate property tax revenues between localities and the state. The fiscal impact studies done in Davis appear to show that added development doesn’t pay for local governments in sufficient added revenue. Yet the state government is clearly earning more than its added costs from new housing. The mechanisms of redevelopment agencies had in part offset this disequilibrium, but the agencies had been given too much power that was abused by local governments. The solution is to allocate a much larger share of incremental property taxes to cities from either approving new development or more densely used existing property. That would likely overcome a lot of opposition to adding housing.

  2. Ron Oertel

    SB 478 Would Eliminate Cities’ Minimum Lot Size Standards and Mess with “FAR” for No Good Reason

    SB 478 sets a statewide standard on 3-unit to 10-unit projects proposed in multi-family zoning districts, by eliminating a city’s minimum lot size standards. This bill also bans a city from requiring a FAR of less than 1.0 for a 3- to 7-unit project, or 1.25 for a 7- to 10-unit project. (FAR is an acronym for Floor Area Ratio.)

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