LOS ANGELES - A slew of affordable housing measures have taken center stage in Sacramento, including one that would authorize a public vote on a $3 billion bond measure.
The development comes as Democrats who hold two-thirds supermajorities in the legislature push to bring these measures up for votes as lawmakers prepare to adjourn for the summer. Among them are bills to ask for public approval for a $3 billion bond to build affordable housing and to streamline and speed the process.
California is grappling with a housing and homelessness crisis, as skyrocketing housing costs have made major cities unlivable for many and a 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report showed that California had the nation’s highest rate of unsheltered homeless residents.
Senate Bill 3, the legislation to authorize the bond question for the 2018 ballot, is sponsored by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose. It already won Senate approval by a 30-9 vote last month and sent to the Assembly. It passed through one Assembly committee July 12 and assigned to another.
Beall has said his bill, along with another that would impose a $75 fee on the recording of each real estate sale-related document with a ceiling of $225 per transaction, form “the most viable package in the Legislature to solve the affordable housing crisis.” That other bill, SB 2, is also awaiting Assembly committee action after being moved along July 12.
“Taken together, SB 2 and 3 will have a big impact on the state’s housing shortage,” Beall said in a statement. “With more affordable housing units, we can slow the exodus of families leaving California and ensure employers will be able to successfully recruit and keep their employees here. Investing in housing makes good economic sense.”
Also teed up for Assembly action are SB 540 by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside andSB 35 from Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. SB 540, which has won some Republican support and passed an Assembly Committee unanimously July 11, aims to streamline the housing approval process and lead to more housing production. Under SB 540 cities and counties would identify priority housing areas called Workforce Housing Zones within their boundaries and do most of the necessary preparation work on the front end, saving time on later environmental and other reviews.
“SB 540 would give local governments new tools to plan for housing and create a more streamlined path that eliminates some of the delays and uncertainty that currently impede housing construction," said League of California Cities executive director Carolyn Coleman.
SB 35 would create a streamlined approval process for housing in cities that are not meeting their housing goals required by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, the state-mandated process that sets the number of housing units that must be included, at all affordability levels, in each local jurisdiction’s housing element. Under SB 35, if cities aren’t on track to meet those goals, then approval of projects will be streamlined if they meet a set of other criteria, including affordability, density, zoning, historic, and environmental standards.
The legislature’s summer recess begins July 21, and full assembly votes on the Housing bills are expected as early as next week.