This week, the California legislature wrapped up its 2017 session. Before legislators went home, they passed several key measures that will help curb the state’s housing affordability crisis. They fall into four broad categories of housing reform that TechEquity supports.
More funding for affordable housing
Two of the big three items in the housing package, SB 2 and SB 3, seek to create more funding streams for affordable housing development. These funding streams have dried up since the elimination of local redevelopment agencies in 2011; these bills seek to restore some of that money. SB 2 imposes a new fee on real estate transactions that should raise $250m per year for new affordable housing development and to combat homelessness. SB 3 adds a bond measure to the 2018 ballot to raise $4b for affordable housing development, including $1b for veterans housing assistance.
Greater protections for renters and other vulnerable residents
One set of bills addresses renters and the most vulnerable communities. AB 74, sponsored by Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco who spoke about the importance of addressing the housing crisis at TechEquity’s launch event in April, uses MediCal funds to provide rental assistance for homeless residents who receive health care through the MediCal program. AB 571 makes it easier for developers to build housing for migrant workers. And AB 1521 seeks to preserve existing affordable housing.
Adding teeth to existing housing requirements at the local level
Under California law, municipalities are required to plan for housing development that will meet the state’s housing needs. Historically, those laws have not been enforced. For the period 2007–2014, the nine counties making up the Bay Area only produced 57% of its total housing need required by law. Several bills seek to strengthen those laws and hold local governments accountable to meeting their housing needs. AB 72 and SB 166, authored by East Bay Senator Nancy Skinner, mandate that cities keep enough land zoned for housing as they need to meet their building requirements. SB 167 (also co-sponsored by Nancy Skinner) makes it more difficult for cities to deny zoning-compliant housing proposals, including imposing fines on cities that do so. Any fines assessed will fund new home building for low-income Californians.
Streamlining the development process
SB 35 (authored by Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco), the third of the big three pieces of legislation in the housing package, allows developers to skip parts of the local approval process if they’re proposing to build housing in a place that isn’t meeting its housing requirements laid out in existing California law. The projects must also include affordable housing, pay union wages to construction workers, and not be in an environmentally sensitive area. Another bill co-sponsored by David Chiu, AB 73, provides incentives for cities that build housing near mass transit. And SB 540 creates a more transparent approval process that is intended to speed up — and therefore reduce the cost of — development.
This progress is promising, but it’s not nearly enough to get us out of the housing crisis. We need to build 180,000 units of housing per year in California just to keep up with population growth, and we’ve only averaged about 80,000 over the last ten years. In the current context, the bills that have just passed will only produce about 14,000 more units per year. And they don’t fully address the needs of low-income renters who are being displaced or pushed into homelessness.
What’s Next for Us?
Despite that dire assessment, we’re hopeful that we can build on the momentum generated this legislative cycle and make more progress in the coming year as Governor Jerry Brown’s term winds down. The legislature is back in session in January and we plan to be working towards a set of transformative policies that will close the housing supply gap faster and make it possible for all Californians to afford to live here.
That means for the rest of the fall, we’re setting down the foundation we’ll need to be most effective in that work.
- We’re convening a housing committee, drawn from our members, to help guide our decision-making on housing programming and advocacy work.
- We’re assembling a set of expert advisors from across the housing spectrum who will inform our work.
- We’re publishing a set of principles and priorities that will serve as a touchstone for our housing work as we move ahead.
More on all three of those initiatives in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we’re continuing the conversation about important housing issues through our event series and our book club (book club is open to members only).
As a member-driven organization, our effectiveness depends on you. If you work in tech, please add your voice by becoming a TechEquity member. If you’re already a member, please encourage your friends and co-workers to sign up. When the next legislative session gets underway in January we want to have the strongest base possible to build on the progress made this year.
Questions? Send us a note at email@example.com.