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Legislature Delays Vote on Housing Package Until After Summer Recess

League sponsored SB 540 (Roth) Remains in Play

July 18, 2017
Late Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders issued a joint statement announcing that the vote on a package of housing bills will be delayed.
 
The Legislature’s annual recess runs July 21 – Aug. 21 and action will occur once the Legislature reconvenes from its summer recess in mid-August.

“Astronomical housing costs are straining family budgets and stressing employees who can’t afford to live where they work. That’s unacceptable, and it’s why the affordable housing crisis has been one of our top priorities.
 
“The package of legislation we are all working on will help ensure Californians won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to have a roof over their head. It will include a general obligation bond, a permanent funding source for affordable housing and regulatory reform. This comprehensive approach does what's long been needed in California — build new homes and improve access to housing. We look forward to finalizing this package upon return from summer recess.”
 
While the actual package of bills that will be included in the housing deal has yet to be announced, the Governor and leaders have been clear that money for affordable housing will only be available if it is paired with streamlined regulations at the local level.
 
There are a number of bills that could be part of this package, including:
                
Possible funding proposals
  • SB 2 (Atkins): Imposes a fee of $75 recordation on specified real estate documents to generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year for affordable housing, supportive housing, emergency shelters, and transitional housing. 
  • SB 3 (Beall) Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018: Authorizes a $3 billion general obligation bond to fund affordable housing programs and infill infrastructure projects including multifamily housing, CalHome, Joe Serna Farmworker Housing, Local Housing Trust Fund Matching Grant, BEGIN, and TODs. 
  • AB 71 (Chiu) Eliminates the mortgage interest deduction on second homes, increases the state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program by $300 million. 
Possible streamlining/regulatory reform proposals
  • SB 35 (Weiner): Seeks to streamline multifamily housing project approvals by eliminating public input, prohibiting CEQA, and removing local discretion. 
  • SB 167 (Skinner)/AB 678 (Bocanegra): Makes numerous changes to the Housing Accountability Act including, 1) Requires findings to be based on “a preponderance of evidence”; 2) Imposes mandatory fines ($10,000) on cities that fail to comply with a judge’s order within 60 days; 3) Allows enhanced fines (a factor of five) if a city acts in bad faith.
  • SB 540 (Roth) Streamlines the housing approval process by having cities and counties identify priority housing areas where enhanced planning, necessary environmental reviews and public engagement would occur at the front-end. These Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones would focus on workforce and affordable housing in areas close to jobs and transit and conform to California’s greenhouse gas reduction laws. 
  • AB 72 (Santiago): Provides the Department of Housing and Community Development broad new authority to review any action by a city or county that it determines is inconsistent with an adopted housing element. 
  • AB 73 (Chiu): Allows a city or county to create a housing sustainability district to complete upfront zoning and environmental review in order to receive incentive payments for development projects that are consistent with the district's ordinance. 
  • AB 879 (Grayson) Provides the Department of Housing and Community Development new authority to, 1) Complete a study to evaluate the reasonableness of local fees charged to new developments, including new amendments to the Mitigation Fee Act to “substantially reduce fees for residential development”; 2) Requires a city, in their analysis of governmental constraints, to include an analysis of any currently-authorized, locally-adopted ordinances that directly impact the cost and supply of residential development. 
  • AB 1397 (Low): Requires lands in a city’s housing element to include vacant sites and sites that have “realistic and demonstrated potential” for redevelopment to meet a portion of the locality’s housing need for a designated income level. 
  • AB 1515 (Daly): Requires housing projects to be deemed consistent, compliant, and in conformity with an applicable plan, if there is substantial evidence that would allow a reasonable person to conclude that the housing development project or emergency shelter is consistent, compliant, or in conformity. 
SB 540 Remains in Play
 
One important and unanswered question is what happens to housing bills that are not looped into the package.
 
The League is sponsoring SB 540 because it would give local governments new tools to plan for housing and create a more streamlined path that eliminates some of the delays and uncertainty that currently impede housing construction. This policy would help spur more affordable housing development, which is desperately need.
 
Under SB 540 cities and counties would identify priority housing areas — called Workforce Housing Zones — within their boundaries. The local government would conduct enhanced planning, important environmental reviews and public engagement at the front end with specific details as to what type of housing would be built within the zone. Because the local government has fully conducted the extensive environmental reviews at the front-end, no project-specific additional environmental reviews would be necessary. It is estimated that SB 540 would shave one to two years off the development timeline without compromising environmental protection, public health, local control or the rights of citizens to participate in local land use decisions.
 
Next Steps
 
The League will continue to work with lawmakers and Governor Brown over the summer recess. It is likely that more amendments are forthcoming and some could undermine local land use authority. Action may need to be taken when lawmakers return on Aug. 21.


 
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