Brown signs bills aim­ing to fix Cal­i­for­nia hous­ing crunch


SAN FRAN­CISCO — Law­mak­ers and hous­ing ad­vo­cates cheered Gov. Jerry Brown’s sig­na­ture Fri­day of a pack­age of bills aimed at tack­ling the grow­ing af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis in Cal­i­for­nia, which lacks an es­ti­mated 1.5 mil­lion af­ford­able ren­tals com­pared to de­mand.

But with the sky­line of one of the na­tion’s most ex­pen­sive cities as the back­drop, they ac­knowl­edged the state’s hous­ing crunch is far from solved.

“We can­not move past to­day and just check the box, say we’ve done hous­ing and move onto some­thing else,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Fran­cisco Demo­crat. “When you spend 50 years driv­ing your car into a ditch that means it’s a re­ally deep ditch.”

Brown signed 15 bills out­side a San Fran­cisco af­ford­able hous­ing com­plex. The bills in­clude more money to build af­ford­able hous­ing and poli­cies to speed up con­struc­tion stalled by reg­u­la­tions.

But it will be sev­eral years be­fore af­ford­able hous­ing units start pop­ping up across the state and, when they do, they won’t cover Cal­i­for­nia’s full de­mand. A $4 bil­lion hous­ing bond still needs ap­proval from vot­ers at the bal­lot box in 2018. The $75 fee on real es­tate trans­ac­tion doc­u­ments cre­ated in an­other bill is ex­pected to gen­er­ate be­tween $200 and $300 mil­lion a year — far less than the $1 bil­lion handed out to com­mu­ni­ties through re­de­vel­op­ment funds Brown halted in 2012.

“That put the state’s pro­duc­tion into this huge tail­spin that we’ve been in ever since,” said Matt Schwartz, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Hous­ing Part­ner­ship. The new leg­is­la­tion, he said, “changes the dy­nam­ics and tells the de­vel­op­ers they can count on state in­vest­ment again.”

Still, the money com­bined in the bills is ex­pected to cre­ate up to 90,000 af­ford­able rental homes in the next seven to 10 years, a frac­tion of what’s needed.

Be­yond the money, other bills aim to stream­line reg­u­la­tions that can slow down con­struc­tion for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, in­clud­ing com­mu­ni­ties need­lessly de­lay­ing projects they don’t want.

Demo­cratic Sen. Nancy Skin­ner of Berke­ley said two of her bills aim to put a stop to “NIMBY,” or “not in my back­yard,” cul­ture that keeps some cities from build­ing more hous­ing that low-in­come peo­ple can af­ford. One bill gives cities le­gal cover to re­quire “in­clu­sion­ary hous­ing,” mean­ing de­vel­op­ers must in­clude low- and mid­dle-in­come units along­side mar­ke­trate ones.

Law­mak­ers passed the bills dur­ing the fi­nal week of ses­sion in mid­septem­ber, with the real es­tate trans­ac­tion fee nearly fal­ter­ing in the Demo­cratic-con­trolled As­sem­bly. In pre­vi­ous years, Brown and leg­isla­tive lead­ers had been un­able to reach agree­ment on a hous­ing fix, with Brown ar­gu­ing for reg­u­la­tory re­form and law­mak­ers push­ing for more money.


Gov. Jerry Brown walks with other elected of­fi­cials to a bill sign­ing to help ad­dress hous­ing needs Fri­day in San Fran­cisco. With one of the na­tion’s most ex­pen­sive cities as his back­drop, Gov. Brown signed leg­is­la­tion Fri­day aimed at tack­ling...

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