Governor Signs 2 CalChamber-Supported Bills That Will Boost Housing Construction

Governor Gavin Newsom yesterday signed two California Chamber of Commerce-supported bills that will boost housing production across California.

The bills are part of a suite of housing legislation signed into law this month that complement the Governor’s $22 billion housing affordability and homelessness package. According to the Governor’s Office, these actions represent a comprehensive housing vision and the state’s commitment to create more affordable housing, faster and cheaper.

“The acute affordability crisis we are experiencing in California was decades in the making, and now we’re taking the necessary steps to fix it,” said Governor Newsom, who signed the legislation at an affordable housing development in Oakland. “This package of smart, bipartisan legislation boosts housing production in California – more streamlining, more local accountability, more affordability, more density. These bills, plus this year’s historic budget investments in affordable housing, will directly lead to more inclusive neighborhoods across the state. Creating denser housing near jobs, parks and schools is key to meeting our climate goals as well as our affordability goals.”

Signed Bills

Planning and Zoning

AB 215 (Chiu; D-San Francisco) helps ensure more housing units are constructed by requiring any localities not meeting their regional average production requirements to consult with the Department of Housing and Community Development; incentivizes local governments to amend local requirements to encourage more housing production; and empowers the Attorney General to enforce the Housing Crisis Act of 2019. The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 prevents cities from reducing their overall development capacity and from approving the demolition of rental housing without in-kind replacement.

Combined, these three accountability strategies will better ensure the alignment of state and local goals. By increasing accountability at the local level, the state and cities can continue to work together to facilitate the necessary production of homes for Californians of all income levels

Density Bonus Law

SB 290 (Skinner; D-Berkeley)  removes four barriers that limit density bonus applicability in California by allowing low-income student housing projects to receive up to one incentive, aligning the density bonus approval requirements with those in the Housing Accountability Act, expanding the definition of for-sale projects beyond common interest developments, and adding a parking waiver for housing developments within one-half mile of transit that include 40% moderate-income units.

California is facing a massive shortage of housing at every level—from affordable to market rate. One tool the state has to increase the production of affordable homes is the density bonus law. It currently allows affordable and senior housing developers to increase a project’s density by up to 35%, depending on the amount of affordable housing being built. The density bonus law, however, is underutilized due to significant barriers, making its application infeasible.

According to the University of California, Berkeley, Terner Center for Housing Innovation, less than half of California cities and counties have had a development project that used the density bonus, and most jurisdictions have had only one or two projects.

SB 290 addresses four barriers that limit density bonus applicability. The legislation makes the following improvements and clarifications to the state’s density bonus law: first, the bill allows low-income student housing projects to receive up to one incentive. Second, SB 290 aligns the density bonus approval requirements with those in the Housing Accountability Act. Third, it expands the definition of for-sale projects beyond common interest developments, including units that can be sold to low-income families. And lastly, SB 290 adds a parking waiver for housing developments within one-half mile of transit that include 40% moderate income, for-sale units.

Staff Contact: Adam Regele

Adam Regele
Adam Regele joined the CalChamber in April 2018 as a policy advocate specializing in environmental policy, housing and land use, and product regulation issues. He came to CalChamber after practicing law at Oakland-based Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson, PLC, where he advised private and public clients on complex projects involving land use and environmental laws and regulations at the local, state and federal levels. Before entering private practice, Regele served as a federal judicial law clerk to the Honorable Edward J. Davila of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. Regele earned a B.S. in environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from UC Hastings College of Law, where he was symposium editor and research and development editor for the Hastings West-Northwest Journal. See full bio.