Lawmakers get creative in tackling state housing shortage

Some novel approaches to tackling California’s housing crisis are continuing to gain traction in the state Legislature this year.

Take AB 73 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco. This bill, supported by the California Apartment Association, would incentivize local governments to zone for more housing.

The bill seeks to spur the creation of housing on infill sites around public transportation by providing incentives to local governments to complete upfront zoning and environmental review and rewarding them when they permit the housing.

“As you know, California is in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis caused by a severe lack of new housing construction at all levels of affordability,” the California Apartment Association says in a letter supporting the legislation. “This housing shortage costs the California economy between $143 billion and $233 billion per year.”

AB 73 now heads to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

Another innovative bill still making its way through the Legislature is SB 35 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

This bill would create a streamlined approval process for housing in cities that are not meeting their housing goals.

“SB 35 will make it easier and faster to build housing throughout California and will stop the obstruction of housing that is all too common in California,” Wiener said in a news release.

Under SB 35, cities lagging behind their housing goals would need to streamline the developmental review process for housing projects that meet certain criteria, such as affordability, density and zoning standards.

Streamlined projects would be approved “by right,” meaning they would move forward without a drawn-out review process.

SB 35 won approval from the full Senate earlier this month and now awaits a hearing in the Assembly’s Committee on Local Government.

“A major impediment to the construction of more housing is an overly burdensome local approval process and resistance by local no-growth advocates,” CAA says in a letter supporting SB 35. “In addition, excessive litigation through CEQA process significantly increases the time and costs of constructing new housing.”

Another innovative approach to streamlining the approval process comes from Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside. Under SB 540, cities would identify locations for new housing, adopt specific upfront plans, conduct necessary environmental reviews and foster public engagement.

“SB 540 will help local governments do their part by establishing a process they can use to speed up the permitting of housing,” CAA said in a letter supporting the bill. “It also provides a stream of no-interest loans to help local governments with their efforts to do proactive planning, paving the way for new housing.”

The bill is now awaiting hearings in the Assembly Local Government and Natural Resources committees.

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