Bill to boost California homebuilding headed to Newsom’s desk – Daily News

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The “Housing Crisis Act of 2019” is heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, seeking to boost homebuilding in “urbanized” zones throughout the state, according to the bill’s author, state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

The bill won final passage Friday, Sept. 6, with business backing but over the objections of the League of California Cities and 56 cities and counties. Newsom has indicated he would sign the measure.

Senate Bill 330, which received scant news coverage, would ban population and housing caps in “urban clusters,” ban housing construction moratoriums, forbid density reductions and allow demolition of affordable and rent-controlled housing only if the demolished units are replaced. It also includes anti-displacement provisions, requiring relocation assistance to tenants forced to move from affordable rental units and allowing them to stay in their homes until six months before construction begins.

It also blocks local governments from changing the rules on pending developments by hiking fees or changing permit requirements once a project applicant has submitted preliminary development plans, a statement by Skinner said.

The bill would sunset at the end of 2024, and its provisions would be subject to limits in existing laws such as the Coastal Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Our failure to build enough housing has led to the highest rents and homeownership costs in the nation,” Skinner said in a statement. “My bill gives a green light to housing that already meets existing zoning and local rules and prevents new rules that might limit housing we so desperately need.”

Much of the state’s needed housing has already been planned by local communities, Skinner’s statement said. One UCLA study shows local governments have approved zoning for 2.8 million new housing units. That’s 80% of Newsom’s goal to build 3.5 million new units by 2025.

“But that housing is not getting built,” Skinner’s statement said. During the first half of 2019, residential building permits actually dropped 20% from the same period a year ago, U.S. Census figures show.

The measure’s passage comes after pro-development Senate Bill 50 got postponed earlier this year. That bill, which will be revisited in 2020, seeks to boost homebuilding by allowing mid-rise, multi-family construction near major transit lines and by allowing four-plexes in single-family neighborhoods.

Increased homebuilding long has been a goal among Republican and Democratic administrations alike, with state housing officials calling for the construction of 200,000 units a year — a target reached just 24 times in the past 65 years, figures from the Construction Industry Research Board show. Newsom, however, seeks to up that goal to more than 350,000 new housing units per year, a target yet to be achieved in the Golden State.

The Housing Crisis Act won backing from major business groups, according to the Senate Floor Analysis, including the California Business Roundtable, the California Building Industry Association and the California Association of Realtors.

But local governments opposed the measure, including local government associations in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Orange and Ventura counties. The bill also was opposed by the Coalition to Preserve LA and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which backed Measure S, a 2017 ballot proposition seeking a two-year moratorium on major developments in Los Angeles.

Ultimately, the opposition wasn’t that strong, and nobody spoke against the bill before Friday’s lopsided votes to pass it, according to Skinner’s office. The Assembly passed the Housing Crisis Act 67-8, and the Senate voted 30-4 in the bill’s favor.

The League of California Cities opposes the measure because it freezes “project-specific” development fees early in the process, before cities know what impacts a new project will have, said Jason Rhine, the league’s assistant legislative director. But other provisions the league objected to ended up getting removed, including initial plans for the bill to be in effect 10 years instead of five and limits on a city’s ability to restrict parking.

“A lot of our concerns were addressed,” Rhine said. “We worked hard to get some amendments in the bill. In the end, it may have been less problematic.”

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