CAA housing-supply bills advance from Local Government Committee

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A pair of California Apartment Association-sponsored bills that would help solve the statewide housing crisis advanced Wednesday from the Assembly Local Government Committee on a unanimous vote.

The bills, AB 943 and AB 352 by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles,  would raise the voter threshold for approving no-growth measures and support the development of micro-apartment units, respectively.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago

With AB 943, it would take at least 55 percent of the vote to pass any local ballot measure that stops housing development within a city. Currently, such measures can win approval at the ballot box with a simple majority.

While many local governments are devoting large amounts of energy and attention to the issue of increasing housing production, there are others that have been unable to do so – due to either a lack of will by the local legislative body or by constituent groups within those localities.

AB 943 would limit the abilities of those individuals or groups who wish to deter housing development at the local level to implement development moratoriums or to further stymie statewide efforts to lift Californians out of poverty and into better socio-economic circumstances.

“By all accounts, the state is in the middle of a housing crisis; in many areas, our firefighters, police officers, and teachers cannot afford to live in the cities in which they work.  You can’t address California’s housing crisis by suppressing the construction of housing,” said Assemblyman Santiago after the committee’s 8-0 vote approving the bill, which now advances to the Elections Committee.

Debra Carlton, senior vice president of public affairs for CAA, added: “Laws that curtail the development of housing threaten efforts to solve our housing crisis. Such moves carry heavy consequences for all Californians and warrant a higher approval threshold from voters.”

AB 352, the other CAA-sponsored bill to advance from the Local Government Committee on Wednesday, would help prevent local governments from establishing roadblocks to “efficiency dwelling units,” which usually measure 220 square feet or less. Like AB 943, Santiago authored this piece of legislation.

“Due to their small size, they are affordable by design,” CAA writes of these apartments in a letter supporting the bill. “They help reduce sprawl because more housing units can be built within existing communities close to jobs and universities and urban centers served by public transportation.”

While many cities understand the importance of efficiency units, some cities, faced with community opposition, have enacted road blocks to this type of affordable housing. Some cities have forced larger square footage requirements per unit, lowered the density per parcel, or capped the number of efficiency units that can be built.

Under AB 352, local governments could not establish square-footage requirements for efficiency units higher than those provided in current codes.

It also would prohibit local governments from limiting the number of efficiency units built near public transit, car-share vehicles or a University of California or California State University campus.

AB 352 now moves to the Assembly Floor for a vote.

In addition to Santiago’s bills, CAA sponsored a housing-production bill by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-San Fernando, that would strengthen California’s Housing Accountability Act. The act requires that local governments follow certain legal mandates before denying housing projects that comply with their general plan and zoning rules. This bill,  AB 678, goes before the Local Government Committee next Wednesday.

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