Senator Wiener’s YIGBY - Yes in God’s Backyard - Bill Passes the Assembly

September 7, 2023

SACRAMENTO – The Assembly passed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Tina McKinnor’s (D-Inglewood) Senate Bill 4. SB 4 would open over 170,000 acres for affordable housing by allowing faith institutions (such as churches, synagogues, and mosques) along with nonprofit colleges to build affordable housing on their property by-right, even if local zoning prevents this housing. The legislation applies to 100% affordable housing. The bill passed 56-1, and now returns to the Senate for a final sign-off before heading to the Governor for approval.


“This groundbreaking legislation provides a powerful tool to tackle the massive affordable housing shortage facing California,” said Senator Wiener. “We need to build 1 million affordable homes in the next 8 years to meet our housing goals, and hundreds of faith communities and nonprofit colleges have excess land that can and should be used for affordable housing. I’m thrilled to see a victory for this broad coalition - let’s get it over the finish line.”


SB 4 ensures that churches, faith institutions, and nonprofit colleges will be able to build affordable housing on their land without having to go through an expensive and difficult rezoning and discretionary approval process. It re-zones the property and ensures neither CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) nor local political processes can be misused to stop these affordable housing projects.


A recent report from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center found that there are roughly 171,000 acres of land throughout the state that would be eligible for affordable housing under SB 4. One of the chief obstacles to affordable housing development is that affordable housing developers must compete against market rate developments for land. SB 4 opens tens of thousands of acres that affordable housing developers will have exclusive access to.


Any organization building this type of streamlined affordable housing must maintain the affordability of these homes for a minimum of 55 years for rental properties and 45 years for properties that can be owned. Additionally, density and height requirements are tied to what is deemed appropriate for affordable housing by state law.


California’s housing crisis continues to worsen, as jurisdictions across the state fall behind their goal of building 2.5 million homes in the next 8 years. Young families are leaving California in search of cheaper housing, kids can’t afford to live where they grew up, and evictions and displacement are spiking. Our homelessness crisis is worsening, and people are sleeping on their streets and in their cars in higher and higher numbers. SB 4 will allow churches and other nonprofit colleges to help alleviate this crisis by building affordable housing on their own property. These institutions already serve deeply important and central roles in our communities, and those that feel called to should be able to provide housing to those who need it. 


The bill was amended in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee to improve environmental protections and assessments concerning active oil wells. 


SB 4 is sponsored by the California Conference of Carpenters, Inner City Law Center, Jewish Public Affairs Committee, Non-profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), Southern California Association of Non-profit Housing (SCANPH).


Read more about SB 4 here: