Governor Gavin Newsom signed a slew of bills on Wednesday that would accelerate new housing construction and introduce new funding awards for specific affordable housing projects around California.
Among the dozens of housing-related bills are two notable ones: Assembly Bill 2011 and Senate Bill 6. The bills, introduced by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D–Oakland) and Senator Anna Caballero (D–Merced), will allow for more housing to be built in commercial corridors zoned for retail and office buildings. They also guarantee high union wages for construction workers and promise an expedited building process near city centers to avoid sprawl.
“This is a moment on a journey to reconcile the original sin — the original sin in the state of California, and that’s the issue of housing and affordability,” Newsom said at the bill signing. “It touches more things in more ways on more days than any other issue. It is, at the core, at the expression of so much of the frustration many of us have about our state.”
California’s housing crisis has been drawn out for decades for renters and would-be homeowners alike. Though population growth has stagnated in recent years, the state hasn’t built nearly enough housing to meet the demand. Housing and rental prices have skyrocketed to record levels, leading to the second lowest rate of home ownership in the country.
The state needs to build 180,000 new units of housing every year to keep up with existing demand, including 80,000 units affordable to lower income households, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
But it has averaged less than 100,000 new units per year, and has never produced more than 20,000 new affordable homes in any year, according to HCD.
The new laws could provide “up to 2.4 million new homes, including up to 400,000 homes affordable to low and moderate income households,” according to an analysis from UrbanFootprint, which analyzes city data for urban planners and local governments.
Wicks says her bill will “reimagine what our cities can look like.”
“It says we have an abundance of retail space, we have an abundance of office parks that are no longer being utilized, and we have a real deficit of housing.” Wicks said. “Let’s use that land for what it should be for: homes, so that people have housing security.”
Caballero said SB6 can help build housing in Central Valley communities “where the stores are leaving permanently.”
“The Sears, the Toys ‘R’ Us, the J.C. Penny, the Kmarts — there’s nothing that’s going to take the place here commercially,” Caballero said. “The ability to actually transform the property and to do it in an expedited way, put people to work and make sure their labor is protected is invaluable.”
California housing advocates are celebrating the bill signing, calling AB2011 “one of the most significant housing bills of this legislative session.”
“California has a huge amount of under-utilized and abandoned commercial properties that could see rapid development of subsidized affordable housing under this legislation — and would include good jobs with fair wages for construction workers,” said Brian Hanlon, the CEO of California YIMBY. “This is a game changer for housing in our state.”
Newsom also announced $1 billion in awards to 30 shovel-ready projects through the California Housing Accelerator, a grant program that the state says has produced $1.9 billion in funding for 57 projects that have produced 5,071 units.
The state says the new awards could create 2,755 new housing units throughout California.
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