YIMBY Action Stance SB 167

The Honorable Nancy Skinner
California State Senate
State Capitol, Room 2059
Sacramento, CA 95814


RE:  SB 167 (Skinner) – Housing Accountability Act – Support

Dear Senator Skinner:

YIMBY Action enthusiastically supports SB 167, your bill to strengthen the Housing Accountability Act (HAA). The Legislature passed the HAA in 1982 to prevent NIMBY localities from thwarting needed home building. Now, the Legislature must enforce their intention by strengthening the enforcement mechanisms of the HAA.

YIMBY Action advocates for increasing the production of below market-rate and market-rate homes in order to bring down the cost of housing in the Bay Area. While we believe the ultimate solution to the housing crisis is political – not legal – our hundreds of volunteers would be better able to advocate for more housing if localities face real consequences for violating state law.

Zoning and general plans are made when there are more people at the table and the community is asked to take a long hard look at what the municipality will need for years to come. That is when we are more likely to find communities stepping up for the general good.

However, when a specific housing proposal is made, abuse of the process of entitlement is rampant. No longer is the general good at top of mind. Instead, the special interests of particular neighbors are the loudest voices. The longer and more cumbersome the process is, the more those with means are able to fight housing in their neighborhoods. Without the strengthening of the HAA, the system will continue to be biased, unjust and exacerbate California’s disastrous housing shortage.

Limiting the ability of cities to thwart zoning and general plan compliant proposed housing developments will increase housing affordability throughout the state. In a 2008 study of the Bay Area housing market, UC Berkeley scholars determined that “…the number of approvals required to authorize additions to the housing supply has a large effect upon the housing prices in a jurisdiction.” Indeed, the authors note “regulation clearly seems profitable to the owners of existing housing.”[1] While the current owners of existing housing profit, the overall housing shortage only gets worse.

A 2016 study by Ralph McLaughlin, the Chief Economist of Trulia, found that delays in housing approvals affect the ability of builders to meet housing demand even more than restrictive zoning. The study reports California’s major metro areas suffer from very long building permit approvals, and consequently, reduced affordability. McLaughlin states, “in some of these markets – such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose – home prices have tripled over the past twenty years, and affordability has fallen dramatically.”[2] UCLA scholars Michael Lens and Paavo Monkkonen found that the number of housing approvals required by local governments increases the segregation of low-income households.[3]

If we want to build an inclusive California affordable for everyone, we must make the HAA enforceable and stop exclusionary NIMBY behavior. We strongly support the passing of SB 167.

Laura Clark
Executive Director

[1] Quigley, John, Steven Raphael, & Larry A Rosenthal, “Measuring Land-Use Regulations and Their Effects in the Housing Market,” BPHUP working paper # W08-004, 2008. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/07t5d0q4

[2] McLaughlin, John, “Is Your Town Building Enough Housing?,” Trulia’s Blog, 2016. https://www.trulia.com/blog/trends/elasticity-2016/

[3] Lens, Michael C., & Paavo Monkkonen, “Do Strict Land Use Regulations Make Metropolitan Areas More Segregated by Income?,” Journal of the American Planning Association, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2015.1111163