Legislative Update – September 2018

On August 31st, the 2017-2018 legislative session ended and with it, the passage of a number of important pieces of housing legislation now awaiting the Governor’s signature. Your Lighthouse Sacramento team has actively been tracking and negotiating Habitat supported legislation to ensure that these critical measures are signed into law. As we watch to see what Governor Brown decides to do with his final year in office, we wanted to update you and your constituents on where each bill currently sits, before the Governor takes final action.

Successful Housing Bills:

  • AB 2923 (Chiu) re: BART Transit-Oriented Zoning Reform for Housing Projects. Habitat for Humanity California strongly supported AB 2923 by Assemblymember Chiu and the Lighthouse team was critical to securing the votes needed to pass the bill. Sponsored by the California State Building and Construction Trades and Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, AB 2923 rezones BART-owned land to increase housing supply near quality transit.  Lighthouse provided regular updates on our private conversations with Senators and Assembly members, representing areas outside of the bay area, to Assemblymember Chiu and the sponsors of the bill throughout the process. Despite Senator Glazer and Assemblywoman Baker’s vehement opposition to the bill, we were able to surprise them by pulling votes from the Moderate Democrats as well as Republicans like Senators Canella and Anderson, and Assembly members Chen and Maienschein, who overcame their “precedent setting fears” and broke rank from their caucuses to support the bill. Our relationships outside of the bay area served to assist Chiu and the sponsors in gaining the votes necessary to get the bill passed. But for our efforts the bill may not have successfully found its way to the Governor.
  • AB 829 (Chiu) re: State-funded Projects – No letter of authorization required. This bill prohibits cities and counties from requiring a letter of acknowledgment or similar document prior to applying for state assistance for any housing development to ensure that housing is built as quickly as possible.
  • AB 1804 (Berman) re: CEQA exemption for Mixed Use/Infill Projects. This bill, which served as clean up language from last legislative session seeks to include multi-family and mixed-use infill projects located in unincorporated areas from CEQA requirements. This will allow projects on unincorporated land to receive the same CEQA exemptions as those within county land and expand housing developments in these areas.

Regional Housing Needs Assessment Legislation:

The RHNA process occurs, roughly, in two phases. SB 828 is focused on Phase 1, while AB 1771 is focused on Phase 2 of the process. Phase 1, the assessment phase, uses demographic data and information about the regional housing market to come up with a housing number for the region. While Phase 2, the allocation phase, focuses on coming up with a regional housing number. The bills below seek to improve the RHNA process and ensure that the numbers assessed and allocated to each region properly address the housing needs in California

  • SB 828 (Weiner) re: RHNA enforcement and methodology/assessment. SB 828 places several requirements on the Department of Housing and Community Development to ensure that it includes additional data to better assess the needs of the region. SB 828 does this by:
    • Requiring HCD to further increase assessment based on housing cost-burden for people at every income level. So, for example, if people are spending >30% of their income on housing cost, HCD is required to further increase regional RHNA numbers, because low supply leads to high prices and high housing cost burden to people of all income levels.
    • Requiring HCD to further increase regional assessment if rental vacancy rate is below 5%
    • Prohibiting HCD and COGs from looking at stable population numbers or prior housing shortages and using that data as a justification for low numbers or downward adjustments. Requiring HCD to make further upward adjustments, i.e. increase housing assessment numbers based on the state of overcrowding, low vacancy, jobs-housing balance, cost burden, etc. of the existing housing stock, thus making sure that the backlog of the current housing shortage is also considered while projecting forward thinking numbers
  • AB 1771 (Bloom) re: RHNA allocation process. AB 1771 is primarily focused on making sure that the allocation process affirmatively furthers fair housing, so that wealthy areas cannot avoid getting assigned their fair share of RHNA numbers. It also severely limits the cities’ ability to trade or appeal their numbers.

Unsuccessful Accessory Dwelling Unit Legislation

  • AB 2890 (Ting) re: Accessory Dwelling Units – limits on local government conditions
  • SB 831 (Wieckowski) re: Accessory Dwelling Units – revises, recasts, and expands ADU laws
  • SB 1469 (Skinner) re: Accessory Dwelling Units – limits on local government conditions

It was a big year for proposed, but ultimately unsuccessful ADU legislation. With the housing crisis in full effect, many legislators were searching for creative ideas to provide some relief. As we have seen, from some of our Habitat affiliates, ADUs have been a powerful tool for many to provide housing as well as a supplemental income in cities and counties that have lenient ADU policies. However, many counties are still struggling or refusing to comply with ADU legislation from previous years and that has created significant challenges to passing any meaningful ADU measures this year. In addition, conflicts between the various authors and an unwillingness amongst them to compromise on numerous provisions, such as owner occupancy and realistic fee structures led to their ultimate demise. We hope to see future measures aimed at improving and simplifying the ADU permitting and building process next session and look forward to working with stakeholders to ensure that they pass in the coming legislative cycle.

Our next legislative update will come after the Governor takes final action at the end of September.