After a Major Housing Reform Victory, What Comes Next?
In a major victory for housing advocates the California Senate recently approved The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (SB 330), a bill designed to spur affordable housing production across the state. SB 330 employs an approach that cities have used to help recover from fires or other disasters: asking local governments to process permits for housing allowed under their existing rules, but to do it faster—and not change the rules once applications are submitted.
Increased affordable housing production is one of the keys to addressing the California housing crisis, and the passage of SB 330 is worth celebrating. However, much work remains to be done.
THE HOUSING CRISIS IN CALIFORNIA GREW OUT OF MULTIPLE, INTERCONNECTED FACTORS. SOLVING IT WILL REQUIRE A COMPREHENSIVE AND DIVERSE SET OF SOLUTIONS.
Solving the housing crisis will require new laws that establish tenant protections, to address displacement and keep existing communities together, and new laws to keep existing affordable homes affordable, regardless of their origin and ownership. Finally— and this is precisely where SB 330 will make an impact—it will require building many new homes across the state, both as affordable housing and for all other income levels.
INCREASING HOUSING PRODUCTION IN CALIFORNIA REQUIRES OVERCOMING SOME FORMIDABLE BARRIERS.
Longstanding and overly cumbersome restrictions, parking requirements, and red tape have all contributed to making housing very complex to plan and very expensive to build in our state.
One of the most promising bills introduced in the last session, SB 50 (Wiener), was designed specifically to counter some of the trickiest barriers to housing production. SB 50 would have eliminated zoning restrictions and thereby allowed developers to build new homes near existing job centers and public transportation. Such new production would not only offer hard-working Californians a place to call home, but would also reduce traffic congestion and benefit the environment. After being tabled for the 2019 session, SB 50 could come up for a vote next year.
IT’S NO SIMPLE TASK TO MAKE BOLD, TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGES TO HOW HOUSING IS PRODUCED, DISTRIBUTED, AND MANAGED IN CALIFORNIA. BUT COMPROMISE AND REAL REFORM IS PRECISELY WHAT’S REQUIRED TO ADDRESS THE PRESENT CRISIS BECAUSE THE NUMBERS ARE SOBERING.
To keep up with demand, California should be building 180,000 homes each year. But the state has built just 80,000, on average, in each of the last 10 years. As a result, researchers have called for California to build almost 2 million homes by 2025.
(Governor Newsom has set an even bolder goal of 3.5 million new units in the next seven years.)
In short, the need for new laws to spur housing production in California does not end with SB 330. Not even close. In both the near- and long-term, affordable housing advocates have opportunities to push for more transformative change.
Advocates can look to the future. During the 2019 legislative session, so much work has been done to raise awareness of the housing crisis, to demonstrate how much California residents want reform, and to push elected officials to develop new, progressive ideas for how to address the emergency. This should not come to a halt during the legislative recess.
The Three P’s coalition represents a broad and diverse set of organizations from business, labor, housing, environmental justice, local government, and other sectors who have come together to secure California’s housing future—and this work will continue as long as is necessary. Keep up with news, action alerts, and more by following Three P’s on social media.