Senator Wiener Releases Details on SB 35 – the Housing Accountability and Affordability Act

SB 35 will create more accountability to meet regional housing needs goals and streamline the production of affordable housing
January 23, 2017
Today, Senator Scott Wiener released a detailed description of Senate Bill 35 – the Housing Accountability and Affordability Act – which he first introduced in December. SB 35 will create a streamlined approval process for housing when cities are not meeting the housing creation goals required by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which will expedite the construction of affordable housing. SB 35 also creates a more robust reporting requirement for housing production by requiring all cities report their annual housing production to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). “California is in a housing shortage due to decades of underproduction of housing at all income levels,” said Senator Wiener. “Too often our cities aren’t taking their responsibility seriously to build housing for people who live and work in our communities, and this hits our lowest income residents the hardest. SB 35 will retain local control for those cities that are producing their share of housing, but create a more streamlined path for housing creation in those cities that are blocking housing or ignoring their responsibility to build. SB 35 will result in more housing at all income levels, good-paying jobs to build that housing, and more accountability in creating the new homes our residents so badly need.” A fact sheet and detailed information about how Senate Bill 35 works are attached below. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) is the state-mandated process that sets the number of housing units that must be included, at all affordability levels, in each local jurisdiction’s housing element. Under SB 35, if cities aren’t on track to meet those goals, then approval of projects will be streamlined if they meet a set of objective criteria, including affordability, density, zoning, historic, and environmental standards, and if they pay prevailing wage for construction labor. Currently, RHNA goals are reassessed and updated every 8 years. Under SB 35, cities will submit their progress on housing production to HCD every 2 years. If the city is not on track to meet its RHNA goals at one of these progress checks, streamlining will be in effect for the entire next two-year cycle. A city is "on track" if it is 1/4 of the way to its goal by year 2 of the 8-year cycle, 1/2 of the way to its goal by year 4, and so on. The streamlining applies only to the income levels that aren’t being built for – so if a city is building sufficient market-rate units but not enough low-income units, the project must add low-income units to qualify for streamlined approval.