CAA unveils housing-production bills at Legislative Conference

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Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of the California Apartment Association, speaks at the 2017 Legislative Conference, where CAA unveiled its housing-production package for 2017. Photo by Bob Knapik

Members of the California Apartment Association from throughout the state converged on Sacramento on Wednesday to learn about this year’s rental housing-related legislation and engage in a series of face-to-face meetings with lawmakers.

CAA’s Legislative Conference began at the Sacramento Convention Center, where the association’s public affairs team reviewed key bills  for 2017, including CAA’s own solutions to help solve California’s ongoing housing crisis. By increasing the state’s housing stock, CAA’s housing-production bills would help workers and their families live closer to jobs and schools. With more housing on the market, economic forces would help moderate rent prices and can help stem calls for onerous polices such as rent control.

Specifically, CAA’s housing-production bills would support the development of micro-apartment units, raise the voter threshold for approving no-growth measures, and create financial penalties for cities that deny housing projects in violation of state law.

Supporting construction of micro units

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago

One of the bills, AB 352 by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, would keep cities and counties from imposing unreasonable size and density limits on efficiency units, also known as micro apartments.

Micro apartments typically are 220 square feet or less. To prevent the construction of these units, some cities will set minimum size requirements unreasonably high. AB 352 would prevent local governments from such size requirements while also helping prevent unreasonable limits on the number of efficiency units built near public transit and university campuses.

Because of their small size, efficiency units are affordable by design and can help close California’s housing shortage. The efficiency units are often modular, built off-site and then brought to the property, where they are stacked on top of each other, making for a quick and cost-effective addition of housing.

Raising voter threshold for anti-growth measures

Another bill by Santiago, AB 943, would require any local measure that curbs, delays, or deters growth or development within a city to now be approved by at least a two-thirds vote.

While many local governments are devoting large amounts of energy and attention to the issue of increasing housing production, there are others who 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 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.

“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,” Debra Carlton, senior vice president of public affairs for CAA, said in this news release about the bill.

Adding teeth to housing mandates

Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra

A third CAA-sponsored bill, AB 678 by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, 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.

Unfortunately, there are no penalties for local governments when they fail to comply with the act.

“We’re going to put some teeth in it,” said Carlton told conference participants.

AB 678 would impose penalties, including fines starting at $100,000 for governments that fail to comply with the act. That money would be placed in a housing trust fund for the construction of affordable housing.

2017 marks the second consecutive year that CAA has sponsored a bill package to increase California’s housing supply. Last year, all four of CAA’s housing supply bills passed both houses of the Legislature and won the governor’s signature.

After receiving a rundown of relevant legislation for 2017, Legislative Conference participants walked to the Capitol to advocate for sensible legislation, including CAA’s housing-supply package. To see photos from this year’s visit to the Capitol, check out our photo album on Facebook.

Also, Friday, Feb. 17, marks the deadline for lawmakers to submit bills for the year. Visit caanet.org next week for updates on legislative proposals that may impact the rental housing industry.
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