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California Takes Major Step Toward Affordable Housing

California is long overdue for legislation that will solve the state’s crumbling affordable housing infrastructure. Repairing the crisis will be a long and arduous process, but progress has been revealed in the form of a housing package made up of 15 bills.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed them into law on Sept. 29 outside an affordable housing complex in San Francisco, one of the cities that will heavily depend on funding from this legislation. These bills tackle the housing crisis in a variety of ways, such as providing funding for subsidized affordable housing, making it harder for cities to block new projects and streamlining the approval process to help meet state housing goals, which have fallen behind.

Here’s an overview of the bills:

  • SB 2: Building Homes and Jobs Act – Permanent funding for affordable housing via an added fee of $75 on real estate transaction paperwork
  • SB 3: $4 billion in bonds for affordable housing programs (on ballot for voter approval in November)
  • SB 35: Streamlines approval process for developments that have failed to meet regional housing needs
  • SB 166: Ongoing supply of housing construction sites for various income brackets
  • SB 167: Stricter proof guidelines for denial of low- to moderate-income housing development projects
  • SB 540: Simplifies environmental review process for specific affordable housing projects
  • AB 72: Enforces laws that require local governments to reach housing goals
  • AB 73: Incentivizes local governments to create housing on sites near public transportation
  • AB 571: Eases qualifications for Farmworker Housing Tax Credit
  • AB 678: Identical to SB 167
  • AB 879: Allows study to reduce local fees for new residential developments
  • AB 1397: Removes restrictions on number of sites where multifamily housing can be built
  • AB 1505: Forces adoption of inclusionary ordinance for residential rental units
  • AB 1515: Protects projects with the Housing Accountability Act
  • AB 1521: First right of refusal to purchase affordable housing goes to experienced housing organizations

“These new laws will help cut red tape and encourage more affordable housing, including shelter for the growing number of homeless in California,” says Brown.

Although further funding and additional construction will be necessary to solve the crisis, these bills have been widely received as a step in the right direction.

“REALTORS® throughout the state applaud the California Legislature for taking action to address the state’s historic housing supply crisis,” says Geoff McIntosh, president of the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.). “These are complex issues that required significant negotiation and ultimately, compromise on all sides.”

There are, however, concerns that these bills may not be looking at the big picture.

Penny Nathan, president and CEO of Ascent Real Estate, Inc., believes these initiatives will fall short of their estimated contributions.

“SB2 looks to add 1.2 billion, though 50 percent is earmarked to go to creating solutions for the homeless population,” says Nathan. “The remaining 50 percent is to support local government planning documents, etc. The fundamental solutions will not be sufficient.”

Nathan also believes that the signed bills, specifically AB 73, may pose an unforeseen health risk.

“Homeless statistics are staggering [in San Diego, Calif.],” says Nathan. “Currently, the homeless population is suffering a hepatitis outbreak. This occurs in the areas along ‘transit’ lines where the county proposes the added housing stock should be focused.”

The bills, specifically SB 3 by Sen. Jim Beall, are not set in stone. The $4 billion affordable housing bond will be on the Nov. 2018 ballot. If approved, Beall predicts it will lead to $20 billion in affordable-housing construction if matching funds and tax credits are included.

“Together, SB 3 and the housing bills signed today represent a historic step to expand a limited housing supply and counterbalance the skyrocketing market that threatens our future and economy,” says Beall. “More Californians will be able to live in the community where they work and spend less time on congested roads.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that California has one of the nation’s highest poverty rates due to economic hardship caused by exorbitant living and housing costs. C.A.R. will continue working toward a future where California is an affordable place to live again.

“We must always recognize that until people have the ability and opportunity to buy or rent a home in California, our work is not done. Homeownership is the vehicle for individual prosperity that can help the state fulfill its economic potential,” McIntosh says.

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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