Habitat-backed housing legislation means a brighter future for California families

New laws will lead to more families — like the Blas family here — being able to move in to homes.

Recently, we visited with the wonderful Blas family to give a housewarming gift and to congratulate them on moving in to their new Habitat home.

We were thrilled to see that mom Graciela, dad Efrain and their three beautiful children had settled in so well. And, although COVID restrictions had put paid to our usual celebrations, we was able to pass on the good wishes of all of our volunteers and supporters.

Nestled in the heart of Daly City the Blas family house is one of nearly 50 Habitat homes in a community which supports not only affordable housing but also affordable homeownership.

Because, like all Habitat families, the Blases now own their home. They are embarking on their homeownership journey with a $0 down, 0% interest mortgage and with their housing costs capped at no more than 30% of family income.

Helping working families access homeownership and succeed as homeowners fosters thriving communities throughout San Mateo and across California. We know that homeownership helps family stability, leads to greater educational attainment, and grows the financial wherewithal of households across multiple generations of a family.

But too many of our neighbors are needlessly locked out of the opportunity to own their own home. It isn’t hard to figure out why. Figures from June this year show that the median price of a home in San Mateo County was an astonishing $1.7 million. And a key driver of these home prices was supply — and the inability to build homes for families of all income levels.

Until very recently it seemed that these supply issues were intractable. While changes to our zoning and construction laws have long been discussed, it felt as if the cavalry were forever on the horizon and never quite riding to the rescue.

But with the passage of recent housing laws has given some cause for increased optimism. When Governor Newsom signed SB10 in to law he gave the green light to streamlined zoning for many smaller developments that feature fewer than 10 units.

That is important as these smaller homebuilding projects can make a substantial contribution towards reducing California’s 3.5 million home deficit. In fact, a UC Berkeley report suggested that there are up to half a million smaller parcels of land across the state that could be used.

These relatively modest projects can also be much easier to physically build and much easier for communities to get behind.

In addition, other new laws such as SB9, which greatly simplifies the process for homeowners to add an additional housing unit to their land, were passed this year. Where previously attempts to build a single extra home might be subject to burdensome and time-consuming regulation, such proposals will now benefit from ‘ministerial’ approval if the project meets certain criteria.

Capitalizing on these new laws and making meaningful progress on our affordable homebuilding goals will be an essential task in the years ahead. If we meet our objectives then many more families just like the Blases will be able to stay in the places they know and the communities they love.

For a detailed analysis of all new housing laws passed this session, please see this briefing by attorneys Holland and Knight.

We build homes and create affordable home ownership opportunities for working families in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties.