San Francisco — In a nail-biting late night session, California lawmakers on Thursday passed a long-awaited package of bills aimed at addressing the state’s housing crisis by streamlining housing production and raising billions of dollars for affordable housing.
The package made it out of the State Assembly on Thursday night and is expected to pass in the State Senate and be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. This represents a first step in addressing the state’s housing shortage and dedicating money specifically for low-income Californians who face the brunt of the state’s affordability crisis.
Two of the bills — S.B. 2 and S.B. 3 — will raise about $4.9 billion a year for affordable housing and create 70,000 housing units — with 18,000 units in the Bay Area alone, according to an analysis by the California Housing Partnership Corp. S.B. 35 takes a huge step to prevent communities from blocking much-needed housing by streamlining the development process.
“This is a major victory for housing in California. It represents a turning point, where we begin to address the chronic housing shortage,” said Laura Clark, the executive director of YIMBY Action. “This is the first step, and YIMBYs will make sure it’s not the last.”
The package comes as a response to the state’s worsening affordability crisis and chronic lack of housing production. California has 1.7 million rent-burdened low-income households, and just a quarter of low-income Californians live in affordable housing or get federal vouchers, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. These bills create more affordable housing for our poorest residents and increase the production of private housing, making it more accessible to all.
S.B. 2 by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) enacts a $75 fee on real estate transactions in California, while S.B. 3 by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) puts a $4 billion affordable housing bond on the 2018 ballot. S.B. 35 by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) expedites the permitting process for developers building in cities and counties that have not met their regional housing needs.
“Today we took a significant first step to reverse course on what has been decades of disastrous housing policy,” said Sen. Wiener. “I’m proud that S.B. 35, which will streamline the production of housing, including affordable housing, was a central part of the package of bills that came out of the Legislature. We also made a significant investment in affordable housing, which is crucial to building housing for our low-income residents. While today is a great win for the state of California, we still have a lot of work to do to address our chronic housing shortage, and I look forward to continuing to work on policies to create more housing in California.”
“I am grateful to my colleagues in the Assembly who sent a strong message today: The California Legislature is committed to doing its part to address our state’s housing crisis,” said Sen Atkins. “S.B. 2 will provide an ongoing, reliable source of funding to create thousands of badly needed homes for struggling families, seniors, and people experiencing homelessness. This bill has been many years in the making, and I thank the many advocates and coalition members for their incredibly hard work in seeing it through.”
While cause for celebration, the work is not over. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates we need to spend $15-$30 billion annually on affordable housing to alleviate the rent burden on California’s low-income households. The state also needs to build 180,000 units a year to accommodate population growth, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development.
S.B. 3, the housing bond, still requires passage by a two-thirds majority of voters in 2018, as its sponsor, Sen. Beall, said.
“The passage of the housing package is a big step toward increasing California’s affordable housing stock. However, we have more work to do,” said Sen. Beall. “Yes, Senate Bill 3 can create over 50,000 units and sustain 137,000 jobs to boost our economy. But that only happens if S.B. 3 wins voters’ approval. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get the facts out about how S.B. 3 will make California better for working families and millennials.’’
Let’s celebrate this important milestone — California is finally getting serious about reforming its housing process and devoting money to affordable housing — while acknowledging we have a ways to go.
Laura Clark, Executive Director at YIMBY Action, 415-489-0197, [email protected]