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Gov. Newsom signs legislation to expedite affordable housing developments

Senate Bill 7 extends the California Environmental Quality Act and makes it easier to create housing that meets environmental needs.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this April 23, 2021, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference about the newly reopened Highway 1 at Rat Creek near Big Sur, Calif. Organizers of the recall effort against Gov. Newsom collected enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The California secretary of state’s office announced Monday, April 26, 2021 that more than 1.6 million signatures had been verified, about 100,000 more than needed to force a vote on the first-term Democrat. (AP Photo/Nic Coury, File)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will expedite affordable housing projects on Thursday.

Senate Bill 7 (SB 7), authored by President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate Toni Atkins, would not only restore the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) but also streamline the provisions and expand them to affordable housing projects.

"This bill is a win for the environment, the economy, and California as a whole,” Atkins said. “It speeds up the costly and time-consuming review process without compromising California’s strict environmental standards. With our economy in recovery mode from the impacts of COVID, high-wage jobs are needed, and this bill meets that demand."

The CEQA was created for Assembly Bill 900, which passed in 2011 and ended in January 2021. SB 7 not only extends the end date to go through 2025 but also streamlines the administrative paperwork and expedites legal challenges from the original bill.

Those processes and investments on housing projects would cost more than $100 million in AB 900. The new bill lowers that significantly for those projects to $15 million in costs, reducing the required investment. SB7 would "help widen access to more traditionally affordable housing options for Californians," according to the press release.

It also requires that all qualifying projects must be at least 15% lower-cost housing and meet the labor and environmental standards.

"California’s recovery from the pandemic must tackle the housing shortage that threatens our economic growth and long-term prosperity,” Newsom said. “Cutting red tape to save time and remove barriers to production helps us meet the urgent need for more housing while creating good jobs and preserving important environmental review."

The bill is part of the state senate's "Building Opportunities for All" housing package and the first of the bills to be signed by Newsom. The housing package is expected to "help stimulate economic development projects and create jobs for Californians."

The bill passed unanimously in the senate, with a 34-0 vote and 70-1 vote in the assembly.

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