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League Continues Advocating for Affordable Housing Funding and Streamlined Planning; Opposes By-Right Proposals

March 17, 2017
The 2017 legislative session is at full steam with over 2,000 measures introduced in the first year of the two-year session. 
 
Of those, nearly 200 measures are focused on the housing supply and affordability crisis gripping many communities across the state. The League of California Cities® has been a proactive advocate in the Legislature’s deliberations of the available solutions to the housing crisis.

Continuing to support increased state financial support and additional incentives and local financial tools to address the affordability of workforce housing and increase the availability of affordable housing, the League is advocating for the following measures:
 
SB 540 (Roth) Workforce Housing Opportunity Zone
 
League-sponsored SB 540 (Roth) aims to streamline housing approvals and construction. One challenge local developers face is complying with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which can be a lengthy process that creates delays and uncertainty.
 
Under SB 540, cities and counties could identify priority housing areas within a community where enhanced planning, necessary environmental reviews and public engagement would occur at the front end. By focusing on workforce and affordable housing in areas close to jobs and transit, the additional streamlined process would encourage developers to propose projects that address affordable housing needs and climate protection goals. SB 540 is awaiting a hearing date.
 
For more information on SB 540, please see “Senator Roth’s SB 540 Creates Blueprint for More Housing Construction,” CA Cities Advocate, March 14, 2017.
 
SB 2 (Atkins) Building Homes and Jobs Act
 
SB 2 (Atkins) creates a new source of funding for affordable homes through a recording fee on certain types of real estate documents, excluding sales of residential and commercial property. The fee will generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually and 50 percent of the proceeds will be allocated to local governments to address housing needs at the local level.
 
The Senate Governance and Finance Committee on March 15 voted 5-2 in favor of SB 2, which now awaits its Appropriations Committee hearing date.
 
Mill Valley Mayor Jessica Sloan testified in support of SB 2. “Housing for all of our residents improves our communities, our safety, and our local economies,” said Mayor Sloan. In her remarks, Mayor Sloan focused the committee’s attention to the loss of state and federal monies for affordable housing over the past decade and highlighted SB 2 as a “critical measure that will assist the construction of affordable housing and help provide for the housing needs of this generation and the next.”
 
SB 3 (Beall) Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018
 
SB 3 (Beall) authorizes a $3 billion general obligation bond to fund affordable housing programs and infill infrastructure projects. Proceeds from the last state housing bond, passed a decade ago, have been expended, and other state and federal funding sources, except for modest amounts of tax credits, have slowly eroded or have been discontinued. SB 3 is set for its second hearing on March 22 in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.
 
For more on SB 2 and SB 3, please see “Affordable Housing Bills Pass out of Senate Transportation and Housing Committee,” CA Cities Advocate, March 3, 2017.
 
All That Glitters is Not Gold
 
While the League is focused on supporting measures that assist cities with creating supportive climates for the construction of affordable and workforce housing, other measures are seeking to remove local discretionary land use authority and strip residents of their right to participate.
 
SB 35 (Wiener) Planning and Zoning: Affordable Housing: Streamlined Approval Process
 
SB 35 (Wiener) pre-empts local discretionary land use approvals of multi-family housing developments and accessory dwelling units by having all such approvals be considered “ministerial.” Under SB 35, a ministerial permit approval eliminates opportunities for public review, excludes project-level environmental review, and removes local parking requirements. Eliminating opportunities for public review of these major development projects goes against the principles of local democracy and public engagement. 
 
Although it may frustrate some developers to hear concerns about traffic, parking and other development impacts, those affected by such projects have a right to be heard in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. Not having such outlets will increase public distrust in government. SB 35 awaits a hearing date after clearing the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on March 2.
 
The League remains committed to developing and supporting realistic solutions to the housing crises.
 
Next Steps
 
Members are encouraged to submit position letters on housing bills.
 
The League’s position letter along with sample position letters for each bill can be found at www.cacities.org/billsearch by plugging the bill number into the search function for SB 2, SB 3, SB 540 and SB 35.


 
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