On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 18 bills to tackle the lack of affordable housing statewide.
Among them was SB 330, or the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. The bill aims to limit the amount of time it takes for potential housing units to be approved by placing caps on hearings, fees and zoning laws.
“Most projects have to get approval from conditions and from city council,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. “In Berkeley, in some cases thats resulted in two or three or more years of public process. What this law would do is reduce the number of hearings to no more than three.”
Housing projects are also required to follow zoning laws, which include regulating the height, area, and parking space allowed to units.The bill disallows changes in these laws during the application process that might otherwise cause conflict. The fee changes are limited.
“While the project goes through the long process of getting approval, requirements may change, fees may change, which creates some uncertainty …. which may jeopardize the project,” Arreguín said.“The quicker we can approve housing, the quicker we can get it built.”
Mike Zint, housing advocate and founder of First They Came for the Homeless, believes the new laws may not house more vulnerable populations.
“When you look at what they’re doing, they’re not building enough low-income housing,” Zint said. “They’re building the housing that’s already vacant.”
There are around thousands of vacant housing units in San Francisco and Los Angeles alone, with nearly no vacancies for lower income housing, according to Zint.
Newsom signed a couple of bills focusing on the construction of affordable housing. AB 1763 offers a bonus incentive to 100% affordable housing projects. SB 751 creates the San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust, which will be used to fund construction for low-income and homeless populations.
“They should not be giving them incentives, they should be mandating it,” Zint said.
Several other bills — including AB 1483, AB 1255 and AB 1486 — require cities and counties to report surplus land, land available for housing and housing data. Others, such as AB 68 and AB 671, loosen regulations and encourage the development of additional housing units.
Newsom also signed SB 113, allowing for the allocation of $331 million to the National Mortgage Special Deposit Fund, an investment to be used toward legal aid and borrower relief for renters and landowners.
“We’ve invested more in new housing than at any point in our history, and we have created powerful new tools to incentivize housing production,” Newsom said in a press release. “Now, we are removing some key local barriers to housing production.”
The new laws will go into effect Jan. 2020.