Gov. Jerry Brown signs 15 bills to improve affordable housing in California

Yiran Chen/Staff

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On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of housing bills that aim to improve Californians’ access to affordable housing.

The 15 bills mandate increased construction of affordable housing, grant more funding for housing projects and streamline the approval process of such projects. Included in the package are several bills that California state senators approved in early June to address the state’s ongoing housing crisis.

“The 15 bills the governor signed … will deliver needed funding, they will provide some streamlining and they will get rid of some legal obstacles,” said State Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. “All these three things will increase the likeliness the housing gets built.”

Skinner introduced two of the bills: SB 166 and SB 167. SB 166 ensures that cities continue to build housing for various income groups, while SB 167 requires local governments to issue building permits to applicants who follow local guidelines. Skinner added that city governments across the state, including Berkeley’s, have previously declined to issue such permits because of public opposition to the developments in the community, referencing Berkeley’s recession of the approved zoning permit for a housing development at 1310 Haskell St. in 2016 as an example.

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington called the bills “the biggest step forward” for housing in many years. According to him, the combination of all the bills could result in more housing construction in Berkeley and therefore make more apartments available for students.

“I think Berkeley needs to do a similar package of 15 bills for housing reform,” Worthington said. “We are working on putting some ideas forward.”

The package of bills includes a combination of funding methods that will go toward the affordable housing programs. SB 2, for instance, includes a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents.

Although Councilmember Ben Bartlett said he supported the bills, he expressed concern about the “regressive taxation” of SB 2. He cited an example in which those who face foreclosures and need to refinance end up with mounting costs due to SB 2.

“There are 600 documents eligible for recording,” Bartlett said. “I am worried about it because it hurts the weakest among us.”

But Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, called the $75 fee a “small” and “standard” funding measure. She stressed the need for commercial property tax reform as a “progressive” way to move toward fairer housing policy.

SB 3 also provides major funding for the affordable housing programs in the form of $4 billion in general obligation bonds, and it will be voted upon as a ballot measure in November 2018.

Councilmember Lori Droste said she hopes SB 3 will be approved because it will help generate funds for affordable housing. She added that she believes the bill package will have a positive impact on housing affordability in California.

“I think it’s one of the most historic pieces of legislation that has happened in recent memory,” Droste said. “It is an important first step. This was historic, but by no means was this a final determinant.”

Contact Sophia Brown-Heidenreich at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sophiabrownh.

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  • Graeme Stewart

    I honestly want to know if democrats have a single solution that doesn’t involve high taxes.

  • California Defender

    Gov. Brown has decided to further destroy our environment with MORE urban sprawl, pollution, and traffic.

    High housing prices/rent is what is keeping California afloat. Without it, we’re finished.

    A note to environmentalists: Democrats are not on your side, but you hopefully know this already.

  • Pelosi’s Derrière

    We need to curtail overpopulation and unsustainable development in this drought-prone state of ours, not encourage it.

    • California Defender


      1,000,000 up votes, if I could.

  • pyradius berning

    “SB 2, for instance, includes a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents.”

    Learn from Australia who swapped out their Stamp Duty for a Land Value Tax –

    “For all the talk of the benefit of land taxation, most Australian economic commentators have so far ignored the experiment happening in our nation’s capital.

    Since 2012 the ACT has been phasing out stamp duties and phasing in land value taxes.

    To see what lessons can already be learnt from this experiment, Prosper Australia commissioned me to delve into the data and see what is really happening.

    The results of that effort are in a report that has been released today. It is called The First Interval – Evaluating ACT’s Land Value Tax Transition

    If you are in Canberra, come along to the report launch at lunchtime today:

    12.30-1.15pm Monday 12 September 2016
    Boardroom, Hotel Realm 18 National Circuit BARTON ACT

    For those who can’t make it, a quick summary of the main findings are:
    • Increasing land tax rates appears to have deterred housing speculation
    • Future land tax obligations are already capitalised into lower land prices
    • Because of this, new home buyers save between $1000 and $2000 per year on mortgage costs
    • New housing construction has remained strong during the tax transition period
    • Residential rental growth is at historical lows, benefiting renting households
    • The distribution of land tax obligations between different types of land holders is the main political sensitivity”

    https://www . macrobusiness . com . au/2016/09/evaluating-act-land-value-tax-transition/

  • hoapres

    The best affordable housing project is the one that isn’t built.

    In the long run, you want to BUY a single family home and if you are in affordable housing then you aren’t likely to get out of the rental trap.

    Wages need to go UP so you can afford to pay for housing. It’s that simple.

    Before everybody jumps on me, remember I said affordable and NOT emergency housing. I don’t have a problem with emergency housing to get people off the street.

    • California Defender

      Not to mention Brown’s new tax on real estate transaction documents will keep people from progressing from renter to owner.

      Democrats are not progressive. They continually enact policies that reinforce social stratification.

  • hoapres

    If you can’t afford to live here then leave.

    That sounds simplistic but sometimes life is that simple.

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