Gov. Gavin Newsom signs bill to increase affordable housing for college students

photo of Clark Kerr
The enactment of SB 290 will create more affordable housing in California to help low-income students who are unable to live near their school’s campus. The bill encourages housing developers to build more units that accommodate a wider range of incomes.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 290, or SB 290, into law Sept. 28, to support affordable housing for low-income college students.

Berkeley’s housing crisis has been exacerbated by the shortage of housing for students near UC Berkeley’s campus, according to an endorsement of the bill approved by the Berkeley City Council in July. The new bill seeks to combat this trend.

“Student housing is not just a student issue.” said Councilmember Rigel Robinson in an email. “The student housing crisis has the effect of exacerbating the broader regional housing crisis.”

SB 290, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, updates California’s density bonus law in order to achieve its aim of increasing affordable housing development. 

The state density bonus law allows housing developers who plan for affordable units to build larger projects, according to a press release from Skinner’s office. SB 290 aims to expand this law by providing additional incentives to builders of affordable units, in addition to streamlining the approval process for such projects. 

The bill was signed by Newsom in an event in Oakland as a part of a larger package of 27 housing bills.

“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,” Skinner said in the press release. “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.”

The City Council’s endorsement noted that despite actions taken by the city to increase housing density around campus, “a shortage remains.” The City Council attributes the shortage to both local policies limiting density and UC Berkeley’s past actions.

The University of California views the signing of SB 290 as an important step forward in addressing the challenges students in the UC system face finding housing, according to University of California Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Ryan King.

King also noted Newsom approved a $500 million fund supporting public higher education institutions in increasing affordable housing, and said the university looks forward to applying that funding. 

“The full impact of SB 290 will not be known for some time. However, UC hopes it will incentivize housing developers to build more affordable units,” King said in an email.

Contact Anna Armstrong and Robson Swift at [email protected].