Special to the Vanguard
Sacramento, CA – The Senate passed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 4, the Affordable Housing on Faith and Higher Education Lands Act. SB 4 would open tens of thousands of acres to affordable housing development by allowing faith institutions (such as churches, synagogues, and mosques) along with nonprofit colleges to build affordable housing on their property by-right, even if local zoning prevents this housing. The legislation only applies to 100% affordable housing. The bill passed 33-2, and heads next to the Assembly.
“Tackling our housing crisis requires every tool available to us,” said Senator Wiener. “Many faith institutions are called to provide housing to those in need, as our severe housing crisis continues to inflict its most serious damage on the most marginalized. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Assembly to allow faith institutions to help with our housing crisis, opening up a huge amount of essential land exclusively for affordable housing.”
California has set a statewide goal of building 2.5 million homes, including 1.2 million affordable units, in the next 8 years to tackle the crisis of housing affordability. Research has found that over 38,000 acres of land owned by religious institutions would be opened to affordable housing development under SB 4.
Many faith and charitable institutions have excess property – for example, overly large parking lots – on which they can build affordable housing. Faith communities have, for a long time, partnered with nonprofit housing developers to build affordable housing on their land. However, current zoning laws in many cities prohibit the building of multifamily apartment buildings, or any housing at all, on this property without facing multi-year lawsuits and extensive appeals. SB 4 re-zones the property and ensures neither CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) nor local political processes can be misused to stop these affordable housing projects.
Any organization building this type of streamlined affordable housing must maintain the affordability of these homes for a minimum of 55 years for rental properties and 45 years for properties that can be owned. Additionally, density restrictions must align with what is deemed appropriate for affordable housing by housing element law, while height is limited to one story above what’s allowed by local zoning..
Labor unions like the California Conference of Carpenters are supporting SB 4 because it not only creates more affordable housing, it supports the attraction, training, and retention of a more skilled and more highly paid workforce. This bill will accelerate housing construction, protect workers with prevailing wages, and build the skilled workforce of the future that California requires to build the millions of homes that the state needs.
SB 4 is sponsored by the California Conference of Carpenters, Inner City Law Center, Jewish Public Affairs Committee, Non-profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), Southern California Association of Non-profit Housing (SCANPH).