Inside you are two souls. One wants to boost housing production and solve the long-standing, devastating California housing crisis. One wants to do favors for friends and put a bandaid over a bleeding stump. You are the Housing Crisis Act of 2019.

A few weeks back, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 330 into law. “We are removing some key local barriers to housing production,” he said, and that is the object of the bill, one of a series of housing bills signed in the middle of October to address the housing shortage that has given our Golden State the dubious honor of the highest rents and lowest homeownership rates in the country. The Housing Crisis Act (henceforth HCA, because a guy can’t keep padding out his wordcount so shamelessly…) aims to promote homebuilding from January 1, 2020 through January 1, 2025, when it’ll be up for extension. The goal is 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 – and according to one study by UCLA, 2.8 million of those have already been approved. Let’s take a closer look at how it expects to reach that goal!

Basically, lawmakers believe construction has slowed to a crawl due to too much bureaucracy and too many steps before a project could be approved. The HCA proposes to solve this by removing some local land use controls and requiring municipalities approve all housing development that complies with current plans, including in charter cities.

But wait! The bill also:

  • Retroactively prevents zoning code or design standard alterations that reduce residential density from January 1 2018 onwards;
  • Limits public hearings on a development to 5;
  • Prohibits fees on new units deed restricted for families earning less than 80% of the area median income;
  • Prohibits reduction of housing densities, increase of development fees, or anything else that could affect creation of both sale and rental properties;
  • Specifies that applications have to be checked within 30 days of submission, or 60 days if the project is over 150 units;
  • Bans demolition of affordable or rent-controlled properties unless all units are replaced with tenants being offered relocation assistance during construction and first right of return;
  • Implements penalties of up to $50,000 per unit for violation of the Housing Accountability Act;

And much more! So why wait? Call now and you’ll also get a FREE garlic press!

The intentions are good and property developers will certainly tell you that their preferred solution to the housing crisis is building more homes (not that they’re biased…), but not everyone agrees that the bill is for the best. Local governments resent losing authority over their domain, with the League of California Cities voicing its ongoing opposition to the whole shebang. People don’t like the SB 330’s ban on parking standard impositions. People argue that developers could cut corners and pocket the savings.

And then there’s the fact that housing production is on the decrease. How is that possible when zoning for over 80% of Governor Newsom’s 3.5 million target homes have already been approved?

Bottlenecking, basically. Too many hearings coming too fast because too many people want to develop land, regulation changes mid-application leading to people going to court, spikes in development impact fees mid-application. It complicates development and it means people get tied up with housing litigation instead of getting on with housing production.

These may be growing pains, or they may be signs of a more fundamental flaw in the bill. It’s a little early to tell, so get ready to watch and wait.