California state capitol
March 22, 2019

State Legislature Acts on Housing Affordability — 2019 is the #Year4Housing


Beginning in December, our State legislators– particularly those from the Bay Area Caucus– began to introduce legislation that seeks to address the regional and the statewide housing crisis. Over the past several weeks, there has been a flurry of activity in the State Capitol, with members introducing and subsequently amending over 200 bills that have a housing focus and hearings on the bills have already begun.

Many of these bills are of interest to SV@Home and its members. We will highlight a few of the bills here, and will continue to keep you updated as the bills move through the committee process on their way to the Governor’s desk. More bills will likely be on our radar, as bills that are now “spot bills” with limited language start to fill in and we see how they may impact the work we do here in Santa Clara County.

Note that we will need your help– we will be asking you to send in your support letters for key bills that provide housing solutions for Santa Clara County residents.

What is the theme?

Many of the bills that have been introduced reflect the widely-affirmed and adopted “3Ps “framework of 1)Protection of existing tenants, 2)Preservation of existing affordable housing stock and, 3)Production of new affordable and market-rate homes.

What key bills have been introduced?

Voter ThresholdAssemblymember Aguiar-Curry (whose district includes Napa, Sonoma, and Solano Counties) has introduced ACA 1, which would reduce the voter approval threshold for local public infrastructure and affordable housing funding ballot measures from a 2/3rds supermajority to a 55% supermajority. Since 2000, local school facilities bonds have enjoyed this lower threshold and statewide bonds only require a simple majority vote. We know how hard it is to get a 2/3rds vote of the people on a revenue measure. In Santa Clara County, voters narrowly approved Measure A in 2016 with 67.88% of the vote and narrowly defeated Measure V in 2018 with 64.1% of the vote. On Wednesday, March 27, ACA 1 was passed by the Assembly Local Government Committee on a 5-2 vote and now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Accessory Dwelling Units— Several bills have been introduced to make it easier for residents to build Accessory Dwelling Units in their backyard. This includes SB 13 (Wieckowski), which would facilitate the building of ADUs by, among other provisions, prohibiting local owner-occupancy requirements and either waiving or reducing the fees that can be charged based on size. AB 68 (Ting) would, among other provisions, expedite issuance of permits, prohibit requirements for minimum lot size, lot coverage or floor area ratio, and allow up to two ADUs on a lot with an existing multifamily dwelling. AB 69 (Ting) would facilitate the construction of ADUs  by requiring that the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) create a Small Home Building Standards Code by January 1, 2021. The standards drafted by HCD would be required to emphasize cost-effectiveness, and include guidance for small kitchens and bathrooms with small appliances. The number of ADUs permitted in Santa Clara County has continued to rise, as jurisdictions have updated their ordinances to adhere to State law changes. Many cities have gone beyond State law requirements in enabling the development of ADUs, including the cities of Mountain View and Palo Alto which allow ADUs on any size lot.

Tenant Protections— Legislators announced a package of tenant protection bills to respond to concerns around displacement and gentrification. This includes AB 1481 (Bonta), which would create a statewide “just cause” eviction law that eliminates arbitrary evictions and requires landlords to specify the reason for an eviction before requiring a tenant to move from their home. The bill does not change the rights of landlords to evict tenants for reasons such as non-payment of rent, illegal activity, endangering other tenants, or violating the lease. AB 1482 (Chiu) would protect renters from large rent increases by setting a maximum percentage for rent increases based on a Consumer Price Index (CPI) formula, while at the same time preserving the ability of landlords to make a fair return. SB 18 (Skinner) would provide grant funding for legal assistance for tenants facing eviction and for temporary rental assistance through HCD’s California Emergency Solutions and Housing (CESH) Program and a new Homelessness Prevention and Legal Aid Fund. As Santa Clara County has continued to add more jobs than homes, pressure has been placed on the housing market and housing prices. This in turn has resulted in displacement of current residents who are unable to afford to live in the community where they have grown up and given back to.

Funding for Affordable Housing— We know that one missing piece in solving the affordability crisis is the need for more housing funding. AB 10 (Chiu, et. al.) would increase the State Low Income Housing Tax Credit to $500 million per year; a fivefold increase. Tax credits are the backbone of the affordable housing finance system. The bill is co-sponsored by our regional partner, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH). AB 1487 (Chiu) would develop new regional funding sources and programs to create more affordable homes and fund protections and assistance for low-income tenants and those most at risk of homelessness. The bill would also create a new Regional Housing Entity to manage these funds. NPH is also a co-sponsor of this bill.

Development Streamlining— Many bills have been introduced that seek to make development easier, eliminating the many hurdles that developers face when trying to build new homes.  These include:

AB 1484 (Grayson) would prohibit local agencies from imposing any additional fees on a housing development project after the application has been accepted as complete and would prohibit a local agency from imposing a fee on a housing development unless the type and amount of the exaction is specifically identified on the agency’s website.

AB 1485 (Wicks) would streamline approval of unsubsidized, zoning-compliant rental and ownership housing projects restricting at least 20% of the units to households earning up to an average of 120% of AMI. The intent is to encourage mixed-income housing, including homes for “missing middle” households that are ineligible for most subsidized housing and unable to afford market-rate homes.

 AB 1486 (Ting) would prioritize the creation of more affordable homes on publicly-held land by clarifying and strengthening key provisions of the State Surplus Land Act. NPH is a co-sponsor of this bill.

SB 50 (Wiener) would create more housing near transit, increase affordable housing opportunities in historically exclusionary and jobs-rich communities while providing critical protections for existing tenants. NPH is also a co-sponsor of this bill. SB 50 will have its first committee hearing on Tuesday, April 2 in the Senate Housing Committee.

SB 330 (Skinner) titled the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, would, among other provisions, for a period of ten years, prohibit, downzonings, building moratoria, and increases in fees and costly design standards, limit de novo public hearings, and eliminate all fees on affordable housing developments.

SCA 1 (Allen) would repeal the 1950 voter-approved amendment to the California Constitution known as Article 34 that requires a local plebiscite for each publicly-financed affordable housing development.

Redevelopment— Since Redevelopment Agencies were eliminated in 2011, there has been talk of bringing them back. Several efforts to recreate a form of redevelopment– Infrastructure Finance Districts and similar financial tools have been created– but none of these has been effective to date. SB 5 (Beall) attempts to create a more effective model by establishing the Affordable Housing and Community Investment Program, a program that would dedicate to approved local financing districts and plans additional local property taxes from the Education Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) without reducing funding for schools. On Wednesday, March 20, SB 5 was passed by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on a 6-0 vote and will be heard in the Senate Housing Committee on Tuesday, April 2.

Housing Element Reform/Reporting— We need better data! AB 1483 (Grayson) would require local jurisdictions to supply information to their Metropolitan Planning Organization– in our case ABAG– and to HCD to allow for the compilation of a comprehensive set of housing development pipeline data. The bill would also require cities and counties to compile a list of their zoning and planning standards, fees imposed under the Mitigation Fee Act, special taxes, and assessments applicable to housing development projects.

Clearly, the housing affordability and availability crisis is at the top of the agenda for the State Legislature, and members are working hard to bring forward comprehensive solutions. More to come.