Housing reformers have a complicated relationship with the California Legislature, arguably the nation’s second-most powerful legislative body after the United States Congress. Over the past five years, many of our state legislators have recognized that housing affordability and homelessness are statewide problems that require statewide solutions. Recent legislation, like Governor Jerry Brown’s “15 good bills” package in 2017, Senate Bill 828 in 2018 (which put teeth in the RHNA process for the first time), and the 2019 ADU reform package have sparked stronger housing growth, even in some of California’s NIMBY-est cities.
But housing opponents and the politicians who cater to them are powerful in Sacramento. For years, YIMBYs have advocated for major housing reform, which would create new housing opportunities near jobs and transit by eliminating exclusionary zoning. Despite many incremental successes since the birth of the YIMBY movement, a truly transformative bill on the scale we need has not yet passed the Legislature.
There is no bill like SB 50 on the docket in 2021. But there are dozens of housing bills that, taken together, advance the Abundant Housing LA “Core Four” policy agenda and represent a major advance in the fight for housing affordability and abundance. We’re particularly excited about the “Lucky Thirteen”, a group of 13 bills that we think are especially impactful:
- Our top priority is Assembly Bill 1401, the first bill that we’ve ever co-sponsored. It would eliminate local parking requirements for homes and businesses within a half-mile of transit. This would create more housing near transit, lower housing costs, and help us fight climate change. The bill passed the Assembly Local Government Committee unanimously, and is headed to the Assembly Housing Committee on April 29.
- Senate Bill 679 would create the L.A. County Regional Affordable Housing Finance Authority, a single, streamlined agency that will fund systemic solutions to the affordable housing crisis, including 100% affordable housing and renter protection programs. We’re proud to support this bill alongside our partners in the Our Future LA coalition.
- Assembly Bill 215 would strengthen housing element enforcement and introduce pro-housing policy adjustments for cities that fall behind on their RHNA goals. This would hold anti-housing cities accountable and require them to accommodate housing growth.
- Senate Bill 9 would legalize two homes on every property zoned for single-family homes in California, and streamline the process to split a residential lot. This would pare back exclusionary zoning and create more housing in high-income neighborhoods where apartments are banned today.
- Senate Bill 10 would make it easier for cities to zone for “missing middle” housing containing up to 10 housing units. The bill passed the Senate Housing Committee in March, and is headed to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on April 22. Our friends at California YIMBY are the sponsors.
- Senate Bill 478 limits cities’ ability to impose unreasonable lot size and floor area ratio (FAR) restrictions, which are designed to block the production of small multifamily housing developments. This will help ensure multifamily housing can actually be built in areas that zone for it. The bill passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee in April, and is headed to the Senate Housing Committee next. Our friends at California YIMBY are the sponsors.
- Assembly Bill 1487 establishes the Homelessness Prevention Fund, which would fund a guaranteed right to counsel program for renters throughout California. This would ensure that renters have access to free legal representation in housing court, leveling the playing field and preventing evictions. We’re proud to support this bill alongside members of the Housing Now! coalition.
- SCA 2 would repeal Article 34, a state constitutional requirement that affordable or public housing be subject to a local voter initiative before approval. Currently, Article 34 gives wealthy California neighborhoods veto power over affordable housing, enabling ongoing segregation and preventing housing from being built where it is needed most. Our friends at California YIMBY are the sponsors.
- Assembly Bill 71 generates $2.4 billion annually on solutions to homelessness. Today, California has no statewide strategy or long-term, guaranteed funding needed to end homelessness. AB 71 could help tens of thousands of people on the brink of homelessness stay in their homes, and access both safe shelter and the critical services they need to find a permanent, stable place to call home. We’re proudly supporting this bill as a member of the Bring California Home coalition.
- Assembly Bill 946 eliminates the state mortgage interest tax deduction on second homes, an unneeded tax break offering minimal benefits to the 3% of Californians who can afford two homes. It redirects these funds to a first-time homebuyers program. Our friends at California YIMBY are among the co-sponsors.
- Assembly Bill 1322 allows city councils to repeal voter initiatives that conflict with state housing law. This would remove local barriers that often prevent adoption or implementation of a compliant housing element. The bill passed the Assembly Local Government Committee and is headed to the Assembly Housing Committee next.
- Senate Bill 51 helps tenants and affordable housing nonprofits acquire surplus Caltrans-owned housing in Los Angeles. This will facilitate the repair of existing homes and create urgently needed affordable housing options in the El Sereno neighborhood. This bill passed the Senate in February and is currently being heard in Assembly committees.
Finally, Assembly Bill 854 prohibits Ellis Act evictions if the owner has owned the building for less than five years. This would put an end to a loophole that allows inappropriate evictions, and would better protect the existing stock of naturally occurring affordable housing. We were disappointed to learn that the bill didn’t make it out of the Assembly Housing Committee this year, and has been delayed to reconsideration in 2022.
For more information on the Lucky Thirteen and other bills we’re supporting, check out the Airtable below. And if you haven’t already, sign up for the Rapid Response Team, so you can call into committee hearings and express your support for these bills.