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Brown signs affordable housing package at SF ceremony

Legislative package aims to streamline home construction, build more affordable housing and eliminate some of the red tape tying-up new development

Compton Herald | affordable housing
State and city officials look on as Gov. Jerry Brown signs legislation to address the California housing affordability crisis at a ceremony in San Francisco, California, on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Photo by Tony Bear!

California affordable housing crisis spurs legislators into action

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Gov. Jerry Brown signed an avalanche of bills last week intended to alleviate California’s housing shortage and affordability crisis.

“Wow, this probably the biggest bill signing that I’ve ever seen,” Brown said before he took up his pen and signed the 15 bills into law at a ceremony overlooking Hunter’s View, a public affordable housing development in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood.

The legislative package aims to streamline home construction, build more affordable housing and eliminate some of the red tape that can tie up new development.

At the ceremony, Brown addressed the dozen lawmakers in attendance, gently chiding them for legislating California into its current housing jam.

“All of these rules were passed by people like you,” he said, “Let’s face it. City and state people did all this good stuff. Energy efficiency, better insulation, more this and more that. You name it. It’s all good. But like I always say, too many goods create a bad. So now you’re trying to clean up some of the bad.”

The bills are:

  • Senate Bill 2 (Atkins, D-San Diego) Imposes a $75 to $225 fee on real estate transactions. A Senate appropriations committee analysis claims it will raise $229-$258 million a year;
  • Senate Bill 3 (Beall, D-Campbell) Funds a $4 billion bond that will go before voters in November 2018, and if approved will replace funds for existing affordable housing agreements that were affected by the dissolution of redevelopment agencies. It would also fund $1 billion to the CalVet Home Loan Program to help veterans and their families find affordable housing;
  • Senate Bill 35 (Weiner, D-San Francisco) Requires cities to meet housing goals and removes environmental and planning reviews for some projects that are not on track;
  • Assembly Bill 72 (Chiu, D-San Francisco; Santiago, D-Los Angeles) Gives the Department of Housing and Community Development authority over a city’s or county’s housing element (number of units for each income-level) and refer violations to the attorney general;
  • Assembly Bill 73 (Chiu, D-San Francisco) Allows local government to create housing close to public transit, and relieves some permit and regulatory requirements for those developments;
  • Senate Bill 166 (Skinner, D-Berkeley) Requires cities to make sure that housing needs are met;
  • Senate Bill 167 (Skinner, D-Berkeley) Prohibits local officials from voting down housing projects;
  • Senate Bill 540 (Roth, D-Riverside) Requires local governments to approve housing developments within 60 days after the application for that development is deemed complete and allows cities to determine where housing needs to be built in an effort to speed up the approval process;
  • Assembly Bill 571 (Garcia, D-Coachella) Eases qualifications for the Farmworker Housing Tax Credit;
  • Assembly Bill 678 (Bocanegra, D-Pacoima) Raises standard of proof for a local government to justify denying low-to moderate-income housing development projects;
  • Assembly Bill 879 (Grayson, D-Concord) Requires local governments to report the number of housing development applications each year and which were approved or denied; requires the state to study reducing fees for housing developments;
  • Assembly Bill 1397 (Low, D-Campbell) Makes changes to what qualifies as land suitable for residential development to increase the number of sites where new multifamily housing can be built;
  • Assembly Bill 1505 (Bloom, D-Santa Monica) Allows cities and counties to adopt an inclusionary ordinance as a condition of building new housing;
  • Assembly Bill 1515 (Daly, D-Anaheim) Expands the number of housing developments afforded the protections of the Housing Accountability Act; and
  • Assembly Bill 1521 (Bloom, D-Santa Monica; Chiu, D- San Francisco) Strengthens assisted housing preservation law.
Compton Herald | Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

“The California dream is in danger, because families are struggling with high rent and monthly mortgage payments.” -Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo: Tony Bear!

“The California dream is in danger,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, in remarks from the podium. “Because families are struggling with high rent and monthly mortgage payments.

“We saw it on our way here,” said Garcetti. “You get off the freeway and you see the (homeless) encampments. You drive by the streets and you see the trailers.”

“Millions of Californians, young and old, middle-income and poor are faced with the unbearable cost of housing, leaving less for other necessities and diminishing their quality of life,” Assemblyman Richard Bloom said. “Many are forced make stressful financial decisions just to keep the eviction notice off their front door and some become homeless, living a life of despair that we increasingly see on the streets of some many California cities.

“Today we are here to tell those who are suffering that we hear you and we are committed to making housing affordable again, so our teachers, grocery clerks, car mechanics, and retired seniors – those who we interact with every day and who make up the fabric of our communities – can also afford to live in our communities.”

Housing in California, particularly major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, has increasingly failed to meet demand. A recent UCLA Anderson Forecast report says the state needs to build 20 percent more housing just to slash prices by 10 percent.

Sen. Nancy Skinner said her bills target the “Not In My Back Yard” situation that forestalls new housing projects in the Bay Area.

“The bills being delivered and signed today bring needed funding, some streamlining, get rid of some legal obstacles and deal with some of the NIMBY obstacles that keep housing from being built,” she said.

Sen. Scott Weiner said the state has been undermining itself economically with decades of putting up barriers to new housing.

“We have spent 50 years in this state digging ourselves into a deep hole, by making it harder and harder to build new housing, by coming up with every conceivable excuse in the book why we don’t need housing, by putting obstacle after obstacle in the way of new housing, and we’re paying the price today,” Weiner said.

He added Sept. 29’s signing ceremony represents a “pivot” in California’s approach to housing, but urged fellow lawmakers not to be complacent.

“We can’t just check the box that we’ve done housing and we’re moving on to something else. When you’ve spent 50 years driving your car into a ditch, that means it’s a really deep ditch and you’re not going to pull your car out overnight. We need to keep going,” he said.

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