The legislature is eyeing new research from a University of California, Berkeley think tank. It shows lowering fees for housing developers might increase the number of homes being built.
The 84-page Residential Impact Fees in California report was released on Aug. 5 by the Terner Center. The think tank focuses on strategies to provide housing for families from all walks of life in vibrant, sustainable, and affordable communities, according to its website.
The state Department of Housing and Community paid for the study. California Assemblyman Tim Grayson, a Democrat from Concord, wrote the bill that approved paying for it. He was elected to the Concord City Council in 2010, and served as mayor for a year. He was elected to the Assembly in 2016.
Grayson is carrying Assembly Bill 1484, which could lower fees for housing developers to allow more affordable homes to be built. Developers pay fees to help cover the costs new housing brings to cities and counties with more people using schools, roads, utilities and parks.
Lowering the fees could burden cities, which have increasingly relied on revenue from property taxes and other sources. In 1972, the local government share of tax revenue was 58%, but by 2012, it had dropped to 36%.
There is no uniform fee in California. The Terner study doesn’t recommend one either.
Cities set their own fees, but must be able to justify them by the actual cost of improvements to accommodate development projects.
Lawmakers might change fees during the legislative session after considering the Terner report.
AB 1484 has passed through several Senate committees. So far, it has received no opposition votes. It lists a requirement for local governments to post its fees on their websites, so the public and developers know what to expect if they were to build in a certain neighborhood. Technology has made the mapping so precise, it’s possible for
cities to show some neighborhoods are less expensive to build in than others for developers.
Grayson said he’d like to see some effective legislation passed this session. There is not much time for local government officials to weigh in before the deadline for amendments to bills on Sept. 6. Legislation must be passed by Sept. 13. Gov. Gavin Newsom then has 30 days to sign a bill, veto it or let it die without signing it into law.
Proposition 218, passed in 1996, required majority or supermajority to support increasing local taxes, making it harder for local government to generate revenue. Federal grant programs that support infrastructure for housing goals have also been cut.