Senators Allen and Wiener’s Bill to Repeal Constitutional Roadblock to Affordable Housing Passes the Senate

Article 34 of the California Constitution requires cities to submit projects to a voter referendum when public funds are used to developing low-income rental housing. No other type of housing is subjected to this requirement. SCA 1 repeals article 34
September 10, 2019

Sacramento –  Today, Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation to repeal article 34 of the California Constitution passed the Senate with a unanimous vote. It now heads to the Assembly for a vote. SCA 1 is sponsored by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles. Added by the voters in 1950, Article 34 of the California Constitution requires cities to submit projects to a voter referendum when public funds are allocated to developing low-income rental housing. No other type of housing is subjected to this requirement. This constitutional amendment was designed to keep people of color and poor people out of certain neighborhoods. In the decades since its passage, cities have also been forced to comply with a web of regulatory requirements and costly elections to build affordable housing.

“Article 34 is an anachronistic Constitutional barrier that subjects government to a costly web of regulations and elections that drive up the price of affordable housing,” said Senator Allen. “The passage of SCA 1 by the Senate today helps give voters the chance to eliminate an obstacle undermining California’s efforts to address housing shortages and the challenge of homelessness.”

“Article 34 is a scar on the California Constitution - designed to keep people of color and poor people out of certain neighborhoods - and it needs to be repealed,” saidSenator Wiener. “Publicly owned affordable housing for low income people is critical to reduce homelessness and ensuring that housing is available to people of all income levels. This important source of housing shouldn’t be singled out for voter approval when other types of housing aren’t. Today’s passage means we are one step closer to creating more equitable communities and will help us take on part of our housing crisis.”

"Los Angeles and our entire state face a massive housing crisis, and Article 34 is an unnecessary roadblock to solving it," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "Today's Senate vote is a key step toward removing costly barriers to building affordable and supporting housing across our city -- and moves us closer to finally putting this discriminatory chapter of California's history behind us."

Basic compliance with Article 34 can cost affordable housing developers between $10,000 and $80,000, with overall compliance comprising 1% to 15% of the cost of building each unit. California housing agencies report that their attorneys spent a considerable amount of their time assisting cities and developers with Article 34 compliance.

The California Department of Housing reports that the majority of Californian renters pay more than 30% of their income on rent and nearly one third of renters pay more than 50% of their income towards rent. Approximately 1 in 5 Californians live in poverty, with another 20% living near the poverty line. These poverty rates are attributed to a shortage of affordable housing, disproportionately affecting the state’s lowest income residents.

Joining Mayor Garcetti in sponsoring SCA-1 is a diverse coalition of housing advocates and industry groups, including: California Coalition for Rural Housing, California Housing Consortium, California Housing Partnership, California REALTORS, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, California YIMBY, Housing California, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, San Diego Housing Federation, Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Full text of SCA 1 found here.