State bill would fast-track affordable housing at houses of worship

Measure would allow faith-based institutions to override local zoning

State Sen. Scott Wiener (Getty, iStock)
State Sen. Scott Wiener (Getty, iStock)

A Bay Area lawmaker has reintroduced a plan to make it easier for houses of worship to build affordable housing on their lots.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, a frequent author of housing reform bills, has relaunched a measure to allow religious institutions, such as churches, synagogues and mosques, to build affordable housing by-right, even if prohibited by local zoning, CBS News Bay Area reported.

Development would also be allowed at nonprofit colleges.

His bill, SB1336, would only apply for developments that are 100-percent affordable for low-income residents. The housing must remain affordable for 55 years if it’s a rental property and 45 years for properties that can be owned.

“Our churches, mosques and synagogues want to do everything they can to help our communities,” Wiener said in a statement. “Many of them have land that they can use for affordable housing, but when they try to build these projects, they face years of delays and arbitrary zoning restrictions.”

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While houses of worship have long partnered with nonprofit housing developers to build affordable housing, the zoning and approval process can often be difficult and expensive, said Weiner, D-San Francisco.

The bill is co-sponsored by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California and the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing.
“Faith-based organizations have long served as community anchors, living out their faith by supporting their neighbors,” said Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. “Homes are the foundation of any thriving community.”

Two years ago, Wiener introduced a similar bill known as Senate Bill 899. While it passed unanimously in the State Senate and the Assembly Housing Committee, SB899 ultimately failed to get out of the legislature.

In February, Wiener submitted another bill that would allow colleges streamline student housing projects. SB 886 would make certain projects exempt from being blocked when they don’t meet environmental standards.

[CBS News Bay Area] – Dana Bartholomew

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