New Legislation could have monumental Impact on California’s Housing Market… Especially in the Bay Area

Governor Jerry Brown just proposed a state-wide regulation that could have the largest impact of any legislation on the California housing market in decades. The bill is slated to allow for new developments in affordable housing, which have historically faced extensive opposition by the surrounding neighborhood activists.

The trailing legislation to the state’s 2016-2017 budget would require state assembly and senate approval. Under the proposal, new projects with 20 percent affordable housing for tenants making no more than 80 percent of the area median income or projects with 10 percent affordable housing near transit would be exempt from most local reviews.

That would be a sharp break from the current policy of most Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, where each new housing project is subject to discretionary review and usually takes years for approval.

The move is a major step after Brown has been criticized by affordable housing advocates for ignoring, or even obstructing, funding for affordable housing. In 2011, Brown eliminated Redevelopment Agencies, which were the biggest source of funding for affordable housing, and last year he vetoed bills that would have provided more funding. Both steps were to improve the state’s finances, he said.

The new measure is consistent with Brown’s fiscal conservatism, as no new funding for affordable housing is proposed. But Brown is taking a significant step to reduce the approvals process for new projects, despite previously saying that potential change was limited.

Brown gave a speech at the Urban Land Institute last October, where he acknowledged flaws in the state’s California Environmental Quality Act, which has been used to sue projects because of so-called environmental concerns after they’ve been approved.

But he said at the time that major reforms were unlikely and that opposition to new projects was just a fact of life. When Brown was mayor of Oakland, “every Oakland project I proposed was opposed at City Council by one group of neighbors or activists,” he said last October.

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