Assembly bill seeks to fast-track affordable housing in state’s poorest areas

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Qualified Opportunity Zones in California appear in blue. This map was current as of April 9. Source: U.S. Department of Treasury.

A newly introduced bill would waive environmental-review requirements for certain affordable housing projects in some of California’s poorest communities.

Assemblywoman Anna Caballero

Under AB 3030 by Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, qualifying affordable housing projects in low-income “Opportunity Zones” would be allowed to proceed without review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Opportunity Zones are being created in low-income census tracks across the country as part of the federal tax law passed last year.

To promote investment in these zones, the government will offer incentives, such as the deference or elimination of federal taxes on capital gains.

“I am very excited about the prospects for Opportunity Zones. Attracting needed private investment into these low-income communities will lead to their economic revitalization, and ensure economic growth is experienced throughout the nation,” Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin says in this news release.

On Monday, April 11, the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS announced the designation of Opportunity Zones in California and 17 other states and territories. Gov. Jerry Brown had nominated 879 tracts in 57 counties for the program.

California’s drawn-out and costly environmental approval process, however, can place these communities at a disadvantage. If housing projects get delayed by CEQA-related lawsuits, would-be investors are likely to take their projects elsewhere.

“AB 3030 addresses this challenge by providing an exemption from CEQA for projects in these Opportunity Zones,” CAA says in a letter supporting AB 3030. “Projects that can be completed quickly will produce the best economic results for investors.”

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