Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a legislative package designed to help address housing affordability in California.
“These new laws will help cut red tape and encourage more affordable housing, including shelter for the growing number of homeless in California,” Brown said in a statement.
“Today, you can be sure we got 15 good bills. Have they ended the need for further legislation? Unfortunately not,” Brown said.
The “15 good bills,” which the governor signed in a San Francisco ceremony, would raise almost $1 billion a year in the short term to help subsidize homes for low-income residents.
To keep pace with population growth, the state will need about 100,000 homes each year in addition to those already planned.
Here is a summary of the bills and how they would impact housing in the state:
• Senate Bill 2 sets a fee of $75 on certain real estate transaction documents.
The fee is capped at $225 per transaction and will be applied to refinancing of mortgages and certain other transaction, but exempts real estate sales. It is expected to generate $250 million to $300 million a year for state and local housing programs.
Half of the money raised in the first year will go to cities and counties to update their neighborhood development plans.
The state share, which can be used for rental assistance, navigation centers and housing for homeless people, is earmarked to combat homelessness.
Other portions of the funding are earmarked for development of homes for low-income residents and farm workers, with a small percentage reserved to help pay for middle-class housing construction.
Low-income residents are defined as those earning 60 percent or less of the median income for their community.
To qualify for assistance with middle-class housing, residents can earn up to 150 percent of median income in highest cost areas.
• SB3, which will need to be approved by voters in November 2018, would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds to benefit affordable housing programs for an estimated five years.
If approved, $1 billion would go to CalVet, a home loan program established in 1921 to assist military veterans in purchasing homes; $3 billion would be used for low-income housing and development near jobs and public transportation.
The bond will be paid back with interest by tax dollars earmarked in the state budget, though the veterans will repay their loans themselves.
Funds from the SB3 bond plus the SB2 fee are estimated to finance about 14,000 additional houses a year.
• SB35 promotes infill development by streamlining the approval process in certain communities.
Housing developers will now be able to bypass some of review processes, including lengthy environmental analysis and public hearings, if the community has not built enough housing to meet state guidelines.
The law also requires higher pay and benefits for workers on projects of 10 units or more.
• SB166 requires cities to identify development sites for all unmet housing needs, from very low-income to market-rate housing.
Cities will be required to add additional sites to their housing plans if they approve projects at lower densities than anticipated.
The purpose is to ensure an ongoing supply of construction sites for residents of various income levels. This law also is designed to prevent cities and counties from reducing zoning densities that would make it difficult to meet housing needs.
• SB167 and AB678 together increase the standard of proof required for local governments to deny low- and moderate-income housing development projects, making it more difficult for cities and counties to reject legitimate proposals.
These laws strengthen the state’s Housing Accountability Act, which supports proposed housing projects and homeless shelters, by requiring courts to impose fines on communities that do not comply.
• SB540 authorizes a state grant or loan to local governments for planning and environmental reviews to cover designated neighborhoods.
Developers in these communities must reserve a certain percentage of homes for low- and middle-income residents. In return, cities are required to streamline their approval process.
• AB72 strengthens the state's ability to enforce laws requiring cities and counties to achieve housing goals by giving the state housing department more authority to investigate cities that don’t follow through with their housing plans, and refer cases to the state attorney general for possible legal action.
• AB73 gives local governments incentives to create housing on infill sites near public transportation.
A city could receive the first round of funding when it designates a particular community for more housing, plus additional funds once it starts issuing permits for new homes.
At least 20 percent of the housing in these communities must be reserved for low- or middle-income residents. Cities are required to grant permits without delay if developer proposals meet zoning standards.
• AB571 makes it easier to develop farm worker housing by easing qualifications for the Farm worker Housing Tax Credit.
Currently the state provides incentives to large banks and other investors to help finance housing for farm workers.
Assembly Bill 571 makes it easier for lenders to bundle these loans.
• AB879 authorizes a study of local fees charged to new residential developments, and includes a proposal to substantially reduce such fees.
Cities will be required to analyze how long it takes developers to build their projects once they’ve been approved, and then take steps to shorten that time.
• AB1397 makes changes to the definition of land suitable for residential development in order to increase the number of sites where multifamily housing can be built.
• AB1505 authorizes cities and counties to adopt housing policies that require developers to include rental units and or affordable housing units in their projects.
• AB1515 strengthens the Housing Accountability Act, making it more difficult for cities and counties to vote down housing projects or emergency shelters that meet existing zoning and other land-use regulations.
• AB1521 gives experienced housing organizations a first right of refusal to purchase affordable housing developments in order to keep the units affordable after the affordable housing agreement expires, typically 30 to 50 years.
• Assembly Bill 1521 requires owners to accept a qualified offer to purchase apartment complexes from someone who pledges to continue renting the homes to low-income residents.
To read the bills in their entirety, go to leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
For more information about real estate matters, contact your local Realtor today.
Cher Wollard is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties in Livermore.