Governor Signs Senator Wiener’s Landmark Housing Bills
SACRAMENTO – Governor Newsom signed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bills 423, 4, and 593. The new laws massively boost affordable housing production across California by extending and strengthening landmark streamlining provisions, allowing affordable housing to be built by right on land owned by faith institutions and nonprofit colleges, and creating a tax increment financing structure to replace 5,800 affordable homes in San Francisco lost to redevelopment.
“California desperately needs to ramp up housing production, and the Governor’s action today helps put us on a path to achieve that goal,” said Senator Wiener. “The era of saying no to housing is coming to an end. We’ve been planting seeds for years to get us to a brighter housing future, and today we’re continuing strongly down that path.”
“Governor Newsom has made it clear that he supports making it faster, easier, and less expensive to build affordable homes in our coastal cities,” said Brian Hanlon, CEO of California YIMBY. “With SB 423 now law, many more Californians from all walks of life will be able to afford to live – and thrive – in the Golden State .”
“Housing policy is climate policy,” Hanlon said. “SB 423 will allow more homes to be built where they're most needed, while reducing climate pollution. California YIMBY was proud to co-sponsor this legislation, and we thank Sen. Scott Wiener for his continued leadership on housing and climate.”
“This year’s housing package takes bold action on the housing shortage crippling California,” said Laura Foote, Executive Director of YIMBY Action. “With each of these critical bills, we are making a statement about the need for more homes. With the permit streamlining in SB 423, we are saying yes to more homes today. Passing these bills demonstrates California's commitment to addressing the chronic, debilitating housing shortage - but we know that legislation will not be enough. Too often the intention of these bills is chewed up in local implementation. YIMBY Action and our grassroots advocates will continue the fight to ensure these important housing accountability laws are fully implemented, and California finally delivers in its promises of housing for all.”
SB 423 extends Senator Wiener’s SB 35 (2017), one of the state’s most successful tools for accelerating development of affordable housing. The bill passed the Assembly 61-8 and passed the Senate on concurrence 27-7 with bipartisan support.
SB 35’s streamlined approvals have proven to be enormously successful at increasing affordable housing production in communities failing to keep pace with their housing goals—helping develop over 18,000 units of affordable housing and tens of thousands of high-wage jobs in the four years since it went into effect.
With SB 35 sunsetting at the end of 2025, SB 423 extends and strengthens its provisions and adds strong new labor standards.The bill has drawn support from a wide range of construction unions, including the California Conference of Carpenters, the District Council of Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ of Northern California, Northern California District Council of Laborers, the Southern California District Council of Laborers, and the California-Nevada Conference of Operating Engineers. Together, these unions represent the majority of residential construction workers in California.
SB 423 is sponsored by the California Housing Consortium, California Conference of Carpenters, the Inner City Law Center, the Local Initiative Support Corporation, and California YIMBY.
Read more about SB 423:
- Editorial: A key law creating affordable housing in California cannot be allowed to expire (Sacramento Bee, May 14, 2023)
- Editorial: California cities want to stop fast-tracking affordable housing construction. Bad idea (LA Times, April 11, 2023)
- Op-ed: California’s most successful affordable housing law really works. But the state will lose it if we don’t act now. (Pasadena Star-News, May 12, 2023)
The Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act (SB 4)
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. The bill had previously passed the Assembly 73-1 and passed the Senate on concurrence 32-2 with bipartisan support.
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.
“SB 4 creates a powerful new tool that harnesses the mission of our religious institutions and colleges to address the homebuilding needs of our state,” said Abram Diaz, Policy Director for the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. “This law unlocks over 171 thousand acres of land strictly for affordable housing production, creating a game changing opportunity to house more veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and other community members who need support. This is California policymaking at its best, by designing solutions that empower our community leaders to direct their resources to solve our most pressing problems. We are proud to partner with Senator Wiener and our coalition of over 300 supporters on this issue and applaud Governor Newsom for signing this bill into law.”
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:
- LA Churches Want To Build Housing That Ends Homelessness. What’s Stopping Them? (LAist, June 28, 2023)
- California churches, nonprofit colleges could build homes on their land with proposed law (LA Times, December 6, 2022)
- Editorial: Religious institutions want to build affordable housing. Say ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ (LA Times, December 27, 2022)
The San Francisco Replacement Housing Act (SB 593)
SB 593 creates a tax increment financing structure to replace 5,800 affordable homes San Francisco lost during the 1950s-70s era of redevelopment or “urban renewal.” During this time, San Francisco neighborhoods suffered widespread clearance, mass demolition, and relocation of communities, particularly lower income communities and communities of color like the Western Addition, SoMA, and Japantown. The bill had previously passed the Assembly 61-13 and passed the Senate on concurrence 34-0.
Though the redevelopment agency was legally required to replace the units of affordable housing it destroyed, 5,842 units of low- and moderate-income housing were never replaced. In addition, the affordability restrictions for some of the replacement housing units that were constructed have expired, or are in danger of expiring. These units may need additional assistance to ensure that the properties continue to provide affordable housing.
The City has set a state-mandated obligation to produce over 46,000 units for very low-, low- and moderate-income households in the next 8 years, and these units are critical to helping the City meet that goal.
SB 593 will allow the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City and County of San Francisco to replace all of the housing units demolished prior to 1976, as well as preserve affordability of the replacement housing built in the 1970s. Specifically, it will:
- Create a limited funding source through the use of property tax revenues (former tax increment) to fulfill the replacement housing obligations using only the City and County of San Francisco’s share of property tax revenues that remain after all pre-existing commitments are funded;
- Allow the Successor Agency to bond against property tax revenues exclusively for the purpose of fulfilling the replacement housing obligations subject to the same strict standards and procedures for review and approval by the oversight board and the State Department of Finance as other bonds under dissolution law;
- Dedicate the revenues to the development of affordable housing within the City and County of San Francisco for households that earn up to 120% Area Median Income (AMI);
- Extend tax increment authority for affordable housing purposes while protecting school revenues from property taxes and not placing the State’s general fund at risk from a reduction in school funding;
- Limit revenues to the amount necessary to fund the fulfillment of the identified, documented, and certified replacement housing obligations;
- Require compliance with the standards under Redevelopment Dissolution Law for review and approval of bond issuance by the oversight board and Department of Finance.
SB 593 is sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco and the Freedom West Homes Corporation.
Read more about SB 593 here:
- Proposed law could rebuild S.F. communities destroyed by urban renewal (SF Chronicle, August 9, 2023)
- SF affordable housing bill introduced by State Sen. Wiener (KRON, August 10, 2023)