The LWV of California supports measures to increase the supply of safe, decent, adequate housing for all Californians. Our local Housing Committee regularly writes to our local city councils to advocate for more affordable housing in our community. It was, therefore, welcome news to see Governor Brown sign four major housing bills, all of which LWVC supported, on September 29th which will help make more affordable housing available.

First, AB 1505, commonly called the “Palmer fix”.  This bill clarifies that cities can require below-market-rate (BMR) rental units in market-rate developments.  Also, known as “inclusionary zoning”, such ordinances were initiated in the 1970’s and by 2009 approximately 170 jurisdictions in California had such zoning requirements, which led to a lot of BMRs being developed.  Mountain View and Los Altos both had these ordinances, with slightly different requirements as to what percentage of units had to be rented at various income levels.  In 2009, in the Palmer case, an appellate court struck down these ordinances as being prohibited by the Costa-Hawkins (rent control) law.  The State legislature passed a Palmer fix once, only to be vetoed by Gov. Brown, and has tried every year for many years to get this legislation through.  Probably, Mountain View will have to take action to reinstate its BMR ordinance, and, at the same time, presumably, state that Rental Housing Impact Fees, which were instituted because of the Palmer case, will no longer be collected from rental housing developers. And, in Los Altos, it may be necessary also for the Council to clarify that its ordinance is now in effect.

SB 2, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, creates a permanent funding source for affordable housing through a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents.  The fee is capped at $225 per transaction and exempts commercial and residential sales.  It is estimated to bring in $200-$300 million annually, mainly through refinancings.

SB 3, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond of 2018, placed a $4 billion bond measure on the November, 2018, ballot to fund numerous critical affordable housing programs in California.

SB 35, the Housing Accountability and Affordability Act, streamlines the approval process for housing that includes affordable units in many jurisdictions. Cities must now report annually how they have met their RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) goals.  If the goals are not met, or an annual report has not been filed, approval of qualified housing projects will be streamlined, so long as the developments are consistent with existing zoning, density, design standards and other locally adopted objective and ministerial policies and required public benefits, until these cities meet their RHNA goals.  

Housing developments proposing 10% lower-income units (less than 80% Area Median Income (AMI)) or higher than 10% if there is a local BMR/inclusionary zoning ordinance requiring a higher percentage, will be fast-tracked where the local jurisdiction has not met its RHNA goals for the above-moderate category. Typically, the cities in our area have met their RHNA goals in the above-moderate category.  This provision is aimed mainly at no-growth cities.

If the development proposes 50% lower-income units, it will be fast-tracked in cases where the RHNA goals were not met for those incomes at less than 80% AMI, which is the case in Los Altos and Mtn. View.  The streamlining, for example, means that if the development contains 150 or fewer units, it must be approved within 90 days of submittal.  Of course, in these instances the project is typically 100% affordable and will need local funding to be feasible.

— Sue Russell, Housing Committee Co-chair

[email protected]