Newsom takes another swing at affordable housing crisis

Governor signs 27 bills to boost development, follows passage of 2 measures dropping most single-family zoning

Los Angeles /
Sep.September 30, 2021 09:28 AM
Newsom signs raft of more than two dozen affordable housing bills
Gavin Newsom (Getty, iStock)

The move to boost affordable housing in California has shifted into overdrive.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week signed a suite of housing bills aimed at increasing development, days after enacting a pair of controversial housing bills eliminating most single-family zoning.

The 27 bills Newsom signed Tuesday are largely focused on ensuring local governments comply with state-mandated housing and density initiatives.

“This package of smart, bipartisan legislation boosts housing production in California — more streamlining, more accountability, more affordability, more density,” Newsom said in a release announcing the move.

The approved measures include AB 215. It grants regulators and the state attorney general greater authority to enforce housing laws, and forces cities that fall behind on housing targets to adopt new pro-development policies.

Another measure, SB 791, creates a new team of state employees dedicated to converting unused government land into housing. AB 602 reforms cities’ developer fees while other measures focus on accessory dwelling units and aim to reduce discrimination in the real estate industry.

The governor’s office claims the bills, combined with the state’s recent funding surge for housing, will add 84,000 new affordable units, including 44,000 units for people exiting homelessness. A recent study found that Los Angeles County alone was short 500,000 affordable housing units.

Newsom also announced the creation of a state agency that will work to enforce municipalities adhere to state housing mandates.

The Housing Accountability Unit will form part of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

The governor had previously included the idea for the accountability unit in his budget proposal. Like nearly all recent state housing initiatives, the unit move prompted outcry from groups concerned about maintaining local municipal control.

Livable California, a leading opponent of density measures, branded the new state agency “a major executive overreach” that would have “a chilling effect on communities’ dialogue with their elected officials.”

Tuesday’s bill signings also represent the latest in a wave of ambitious housing initiatives Newsom has championed in recent months, especially since easily defeating a recall attempt earlier this month.

On Sept. 16, he signed the two housing bills making it easier for municipalities to upzone near transit, along with two others. The state also launched a $1.8 billion fund to address stalled affordable housing projects. This summer, the governor and state legislatures also agreed to a budget that allocates $12 billion over two years to affordable housing, part of what Newsom characterizes as a larger $22 billion investment goal.

“No state has ever endeavored to invest these kinds of resources,” Newsom said at the recent signings. “No state has ever committed to investing these resources with an actual strategy and plan to back it up.”

But state also has an overwhelming need. Earlier this year, a report found that just 3 percent of California cities and counties were on track to meet housing goals the state set.

The governor said the new housing laws will provide political cover for mayors and other local elected officials who support the state’s housing initiatives but face heavy criticism from constituents who are staunchly opposed to more development.





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