Senator Wiener Introduces Housing Affordability and Accountability Bill

December 10, 2016

On Tuesday, December 5th, Senator Wiener introduced Senate Bill 35, the Housing Affordability and Accountability bill, which will streamline the production of affordable housing and spur the construction of housing throughout California. Senate Bill 35 will remove local barriers to creating affordable housing, as well as barriers in jurisdictions failing to build housing needed to meet Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goals. SB 35 includes a provision that all these requirements are subject to the payment of prevailing wages to workers building the housing.

Senator Wiener introduced the intent bill as his first piece of legislation after being sworn-in in Sacramento as the new State Senator for District 11, representing San Francisco and northern San Mateo County. Senator Wiener will work with affordable housing organizations, housing advocates, building trade groups, environmental advocates, and others to formulate the bill in the coming months.

“California residents are suffering from high costs of housing, and we need to do more to build homes at all affordability levels,” said Senator Wiener. “We need to make it easier to deliver the critical affordable housing projects our low-income residents need, and we need to ensure that every city across our state is taking its role seriously in addressing this housing crisis. The Affordable Housing and Accountability Act will put us on the path to achieving both of these goals, while ensuring that we are creating jobs that pay a living wage as we build this housing.”

Last year, Senator Wiener, while serving as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, passed legislation to streamline the production of 100% affordable housing in San Francisco by exempting these projects from burdensome approval processes. Wiener’s San Francisco Affordable Housing Streamlining Law exempted all 100% affordable housing projects from conditional use authorizations, which can add months on to the entitlement process and increase costs for projects, even if the project has no opposition. The legislation passed with unanimous support from the Board of Supervisors, and with support of affordable housing developers, housing activists, and public policy organizations.

“In order for California to grow and thrive, we must implement policies that will deliver more housing for everyone who lives and works here,” said Gabriel Metcalf, President and CEO of SPUR, a San Francisco Bay Area urban planning and good government organization. “We can no longer afford to ignore our needs for producing new housing at all affordability levels, and we look forward to working with Senator Wiener on legislation that will achieve these goals across all of California.”

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. Senator Wiener intends to set a timeframe by which jurisdictions must meet RHNA requirements, and if after that timeframe, the needs aren’t met, then barriers to housing production would be lifted by the state. This would preserve local control options for building housing, provided that jurisdictions work to meet their RHNA goals. If those goals aren’t met in a provided timeframe, then local barriers to construction would be lifted, potentially including allowing as-of-right construction, as proposed by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year.

Senator Wiener’s bill includes a provision requiring prevailing wage be paid to workers building these projects.