'Housing Crisis' Tops California's Legislative Agenda This Year

By Collins, Jeff | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), May 7, 2017 | Go to article overview

'Housing Crisis' Tops California's Legislative Agenda This Year


Collins, Jeff, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


Rents are too high. Home prices are out of reach. Decent listings and rentals are hard to find. Homeless encampments are growing. And many residents are cutting back on food, clothing and medical care to keep a roof over their heads.

Now, after years of inaction, Sacramento may be on the verge of doing something about the state's "housing crisis."

More than 130 housing bills surfaced this year as of the last count, many of them aimed at addressing the state's housing shortage, lack of affordable housing and protecting those at risk of losing their homes.

Since some bills have been abandoned or delayed, there isn't an exact count yet. But one policy advocate said he's tracking 89 bills, well above the typical 20 to 40 housing bills introduced each year.

High housing costs, a drastic undersupply of homes to buy or rent and the failure of cities and counties to adequately plan for growth is fueling this torrent of new statutes, policy advocates say.

"Just look at the data," said Alex Creel, chief lobbyist for the California Association of Realtors, citing the state's latest housing assessment report. "It's an incredible housing crisis in California."

According to the state Housing and Community Development Department, California needed 180,000 new homes each year over the past decade but built on average just 80,000 a year. The state will need at least 1.8 million new homes by 2025. At 54 percent, California's homeownership rate has dropped to the lowest point since the late 1940s. Overcrowding in the state is double the national rate. And while the state has 12 percent of the nation's population, it has 22 percent of the nation's homeless.

Growing awareness of these issues is driving state leaders to take action.

"I don't think anybody recalls a time when there's been more attention focused on the housing issue," said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, who has introduced 13 housing bills this year.

Unless something is done, the state will have a housing gap of 3.5 million units in eight years, he said.

"People have come to understand that this is a crisis, and we need to treat it as such and address it accordingly."

Key measures

Housing bills introduced this year fall into four key types, legislative staffers said.

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Increased funding for affordable housing: Housing advocates note state investment in affordable housing programs has been cut by $1.7 billion because there's less bond money available and because redevelopment agencies, which used property tax revenue to encourage development in blighted areas, were abolished in 2012. Several bills seek to increase funding for affordable housing for low-income residents.

The three most notable bills are Senate Bill 2, which would raise money for affordable housing by charging a $75 on some real estate documents recorded with the county; SB 3, a $3 million bond for affordable housing production; and Assembly Bill 71, which would eliminate the state mortgage interest tax deduction on second homes used by their owners.

Streamlined approvals for homebuilding projects: State leaders, most notably Gov. Jerry Brown, hope to spur homebuilding by reducing the time and cost involved in getting developments approved by local governments.

One such measure, SB 35, exempts multi-family housing developments from city council or board of supervisors' review if they're built on an "infill" site and are in jurisdictions falling behind on housing goals for all income levels, among other conditions.

Stepped-up enforcement of housing laws: Current law requires local governments to provide housing for all income levels within their jurisdictions but lacks adequate enforcement. Several measures seek to put more teeth in the state's "housing element" requirements.

AB 72, for example, would provide funding to the state Attorney General's Office for increased oversight of local government compliance with housing laws. …

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