Housing is a Hot Topic at the California Capitol

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In its February 2018 Statewide Housing Assessment, the California Housing and Community Development Department stated that 180,000 homes would need to be produced annually between 2015-2025 to keep up with projected population and household growth. This is a goal that will likely go unmet, as California has only built an average of 80,000 homes per year over the last 10 years. As a result, California legislators have introduced multiple housing bills, many of which are aimed at streamlining housing production, increasing the state’s ability to control land use at the local level, and developing financing tools to fund increased housing production. A few of these bills, most notably ACA 1, SCA 1, AB 68, and SB 9 will significantly impact the state’s ability to meet its housing target. Here is a brief summary of these bills:

·         ACA 1 is focused on providing an additional funding source to enable construction of affordable housing and infrastructure. The additional funding would be available at a local level and would be focused on "workforce housing" (up to 150% AMI), thereby including the “missing middle” that is often neglected in housing legislation.  ACA 1 accomplishes this by reducing the local vote threshold (from a two-thirds vote to a 55-percent majority) for approval of an ad valorem tax to service bond indebtedness incurred to fund the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of public infrastructure or affordable housing.

ACA 1 also includes provisions requiring that annual performance audits be made available to the public and a citizens’ oversight committee be formed, allowing the public to track progress and hold the issuer accountable for expenditures related to applicable projects. However, lawmakers should consider the administrative burden that these accountability provisions may create, as operation expenses will not be a cost covered by debt issuance. Link to bill.

·         SCA 1 would streamline the approval process for affordable housing developers and municipalities. SCA 1 would repeal Article 34 of the California Constitution, which was enacted in 1950 and prohibits the development, construction, or acquisition of a low-rent housing project by any state public body until electors of the public body approve the project with a majority vote. By requiring voter approval, Article 34 has slowed the approval process and increased the cost of affordable housing drastically. Link to bill.

·         AB 68 seeks to increase residential housing density in California by requiring that streamlined approval be given to permit applications for the development of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs). This bill also prohibits a local ordinance from imposing minimum lot size, lot coverage, or floor area ratio requirement on ADUs.  Link to bill.

·         SB 9 is a financing tool that seeks to incentivize investment in affordable housing development. This bill authorizes a developer that is awarded a low-income housing tax credit to sell that credit to investors for each taxable year the credit is allowed indefinitely, thereby removing a January 1, 2020 sunset provision in existing law. Therefore, this change spurs investment in affordable housing projects for a longer, indefinite period of time than current law allows. Link to bill.