SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Recognizing that the affordable housing market crisis in California requires immediate attention, California lawmakers passed a flurry of bills Friday that promise to streamline the permitting process and ensure future home availability – particularly in the state’s most expensive cities.
Among the most controversial of the bills passed is Senate Bill 2, by state Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate Bill 3, by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-Campbell. Atkins’ bill will impose a fee of up to $225 on certain real estate transactions to raise $1.2 billion over the next five years, with half the money going to help local governments streamline housing production and the other half going to tackle homelessness.
SB 3 funds a $4 billion bond that will go before voters in November 2018, and if approved will replace funds for existing affordable housing agreements that were affected by the dissolution of redevelopment agencies. It would also fund $1 billion to the CalVet Home Loan Program to help veterans and their families find affordable housing.
Beall said his bond measure could create a ripple effect on the economy, with $23.5 billion in economic activity, including $8.5 billion in income and $1 billion in additional revenue gains.
“The lack of housing is holding our economy hostage – pricing working families, millennials, seniors, and vets out of the market for apartments and homes,’’ Beall said. “SB 3 will help reverse this trend.”
The measures next head to the governor’s desk for signature.
“Today we took a step toward addressing a housing crisis that has been plaguing California for years,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, told the San Jose Mercury News on Thursday. “The package of bills we approved today addresses funding, project streamlining, stricter enforcement, and real accountability – all the affordable housing elements necessary to help more Californians pay the rent or buy a house.”
Atkins said the measures are vital to California’s families and essential to stem the rising tide of homelessness that plagues California’s cities.
“California is in crisis. Rising housing costs affect us all. Too many people are using far too much of their income to pay the rent or the mortgage,” Atkins said in a statement. “Too many people are falling into homelessness. Too many people are forced to live farther and farther away from their jobs, clogging our freeways, making our battle against climate change more difficult and depriving families of quality time together.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, saw two of her bills pass. Senate Bill 167 would hit cities with steep fines when they fall short of their affordable housing quotas, and SB 166 pushes cities to plan for their affordable housing needs.
Specifically, SB 167 focuses attention on cities that willfully fail to build affordable housing on approved sites in an effort to prevent a perceived negative impact on existing communities.
“The goals of SB 167 and SB 166 are to remove barriers to housing construction and increase housing development across all affordability levels,” Skinner said in a statement. “Strengthening existing law is central to meeting those goals and to combat our housing crisis.”
Other bills passed include SB 35 by state Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, which will require cities to meet housing goals, and SB 540 by state Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, which allows cities to determine where housing needs to be built in an effort to speed up the approval process.
“Access to housing is a basic human need, and ensuring Californians have access to an affordable place to live is critical to every Californian’s quality of life,” Roth said in a statement. “That’s why I am proud to have authored SB 540, which will incentivize and streamline housing construction to meet our state’s dire housing shortage. I thank my colleagues for recognizing the critical need for this measure, and look forward to sending this measure to the governor for his signature.”
Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated his support for at least two of the measures, tweeting late Thursday, “There’s no place like home. #SB2 #SB35.”