Senator Wiener’s Housing Accountability and Affordability Bill Clears Second Senate Committee

April 27, 2017

Sacramento –  Today the Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved Senator Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 35 – which 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). This will expedite the construction of affordable housing. SB 35 has already been approved by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. 

“For far too long, California has ignored our statewide need to build housing at all income levels, which hurts our economy, our environment, and, most importantly, the people and families of California,” said Senator Wiener. “If we want children to be able to buy and live in homes in and near the communities they grew up in, we can’t continue down the same path of allowing communities to obstruct and water-down both market-rate and affordable housing projects throughout our state. SB 35 will hold all of our communities accountable to meet real and achievable housing goals so that we can address our housing shortage. We are continuing to work with stakeholders, including labor, environmental organizations, and affordable housing advocates, to ensure we have a bill with broad support that meaningfully improves our process for approving and building housing.”

SB 35 is supported by non-profit affordable housing developers and organizations, economic and business groups, and grassroots housing advocates including Non-Profit Housing of Northern California, the California Council for Affordable Housing, Mercy Housing, Bridge Housing, Mission Housing Development Corporation, Mayor Ed Lee, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Bay Area Council, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, County of Napa, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, Abundant Housing LA, East Bay Forward, YIMBY Action, and many others.

At the hearing, environmental organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the California League of Conservation Voters expressed support for the environmental provisions of SB 35. 

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. The streamlining applies only to the income levels that aren’t being built – 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.

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.