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Talking Housing: New Laws and Conversation on the Bay Area's Top Worry

Thursday, October 5, 2017

By Cecilia Chen, Manager, Public Policy, Northen California Grantmakers

“It seems that almost everyone in the Bay Area has a housing horror story to tell. Anecdotes abound of renters spending months looking for a new place, and the pound of flesh extracted when they do find one. Equally scary are the stories from aspiring, seemingly qualified homeowners who are turned away by banks,” reported KQED in its series on the housing crisis

Affordable space, or lack thereof, is undoubtedly one of the biggest issues plaguing the Bay Area. Increasing pressures on space have accompanied the region’s tremendous economic growth and housing construction has not kept with demand. As a result, housing prices have skyrocketed. Many individuals and families are now unable to afford the high rents in the Bay Area. Most deeply affected are communities who have historically contributed to the rich social fabric of the Bay Area including communities of color, immigrant and refugees, and artists. 

The housing crisis plaguing the Bay Area has now grown across the state. Almost half of Californians report that the cost of housing strains their household. Last week the Governor signed into law 15 housing bills representing the California legislature’s first comprehensive attempt to curtail the state’s affordable housing crisis. Negotiated with the Governor and legislative Democrats, the package included bills aimed at streamlining building regulations, a $4 billion bond for affordable housing, and a new fee on real estate transaction documents that together are projected to yield $200 million to $300 million annually.

We have compiled a complete list of bills that comprise the affordable housing package. See the List > 


Over the next few months, NCG will host a series of conversations about housing – touching upon the history of residential racial segregation, the intersection between health and housing, and the housing crisis in California. These programs will offer an opportunity to understand this complex issue more deeply and discuss how philanthropy can play a role in responding to the crisis. 

Date: October 20, 2017 | Time: 9:30 am to 11:30 am | Location: Northern California Grantmakers 
NCG and Renaissance Journalism’s Bay Area Media Collaborative host a provocative discussion with prominent scholar Richard Rothstein, whose latest book The Color of Law, exposes how the United States’ vexing history of segregated housing—including in the San Francisco Bay Area—can be traced to explicit government policies at the local, state and federal levels. The timely book, subtitled “A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America,” comes as communities throughout the Bay Area grapple with a crisis in housing, gentrification, displacement.
Date: October 24, 2017 | Time: 10:00 am  to 12:00 noon | Location: Northern California Grantmakers
Join the Bay Area Health Funders Group discussion about the connection between housing and health, building cross sector relationships, promising projects in the region and the country, and philanthropy’s role as a catalyst for advancing health and well-being in our communities through housing. 
Stay tuned for details on our upcoming screening!
City Rising is a multi-platform, one-hour documentary series following the journey of California communities that are fighting gentrification and features a growing movement of advocates seeking responsible development across the state. It looks at six California communities where residents, activists and urban planners have identified gentrification as a primary concern: Boyle Heights and South Central in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Oakland and the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento.

California Legislature’s Affordable Housing Package

  • Senate Bill 2 (Building Homes and Jobs Act) – This law imposes a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents, excluding property sales and capped at $225 per transaction. The majority of the funds collected would be distributed to local governments to address local housing needs, including homelessness. SB 2 was introduced Senator Toni Atkin of San Diego. 
  • Senate Bill 3 (Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018) – This law places a $4 billion general obligation bond on the November 2018 ballot. $3 billion of the bond would be used to finance housing programs and $1 billion would provide housing assistance to veterans. SB 3 was introduced by Senator Jim Beall of San Jose.
  • Senate Bill 35 (Affordable Housing: Streamlined Approval Process) – This law requires cities, who do not meet their Regional Housing Needs Assessment housing goals, to comply with a streamlined approval process for multi-family housing developments until the cities meet their goals. SB 35 was introduced by Senator Scott Weiner of San Francisco.   
  • Senate Bill 166 (Residential Density and Affordability) – This law requires cities and counties to ensure that their general plans include enough housing sites to meet their remaining unmet share of the regional housing need for lower and moderate-income households. The bill would also prohibit a city or county from reducing a parcel’s residential density without specific written findings. SB 166 was introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner of Berkeley.
  • Senate Bill 167 and Assembly Bill 678 (Housing Accountability Act) – This law increases the burden of proof that a city or county must meet for denying a housing development from “substantial evidence” to “clear and convening”. The law also creates a right of action to enforce its provisions and allows courts to impose fines on cities or counties who violate the Housing Accountability Act. SB 167 was authored by Senator Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and AB 678 was authored by Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra of Pacoima.
  • Senate Bill 540 (Workforce Housing Opportunity Zone) – This law allows cities to create Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones in order to streamline environmental review, planning, and approvals. SB 540 was authored by Senator Richard Roth of Riverside.
  • Assembly Bill 72 (Housing) – This law requires the California Department of Housing and Community Development to review any actions by a city or county that are inconsistent with the city or county’s housing element and refer violations to the Attorney General’s Office. AB 72 was authored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles.
  • Assembly Bill 73 (Housing Sustainability Districts) – This law incentivizes cities and counties to establish Housing Sustainability Districts, which would be zoned at higher densities and located near public transportation, to streamline the environmental review, planning, and approval process. This law is similar to SB 540 but it includes incentives for local governments. AB 73 was authored by Assemblymember David Chiu of San Francisco. 
  • Assembly Bill 571 (Farmworker Housing) – This law expands state low-income housing tax credits to encourage farmworker housing development. AB 571 was sponsored by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia of Coachella. 
  • Assembly Bill 879 (Housing Element) – This law requires cities and counties to report data on housing developments annually. The law also requires local governments to provide additional analysis on housing constraints in the housing element. AB 879 was authored by Assemblymember Tim Grayson of Concord.
  • Assembly Bill 1397 (Inventory of Land for Residential Development) – This law requires land sites included in a city or county’s inventory of land suitable for residential development to have realistic potential for redevelopment. The law also requires the each site to specify the number of units that can be accommodated and the type of housing. AB 1397 was introduced by Assemblymember Even Low of Campbell. 
  • Assembly Bill 1505 (Zoning Regulations) – This law allows a city or county to establish inclusionary housing requirements as a condition for residential rental development. AB 1505 was introduced by Assembly Member Richard Bloom of Santa Monica.
  • Assembly Bill 1515 (Housing) – This law places a higher burden of proof on cities and counties to show that a proposed housing development is inconsistent with its general plan or zoning ordinances before denying the proposal. AB 1515 was introduced by Assemblymember Tom Daly of Anaheim.
  • Assembly Bill 1521 (Assisted Housing Developments) – This law requires owners of affordable rental properties to accept market-rate offers from a qualified preservation entity that intends to maintain the property’s affordability restrictions. The bill would also require owners of affordable rental properties to notify tenants when affordability restrictions are within three years of expiring. AB 1251 was introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom of Santa Monica.