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California housing reform bill introduced on day one of new session

The new bill would waive zoning requirements and automatically approve projects on the excess land of churches and nonprofit colleges

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — State lawmakers introduced over a hundred bills on the first day of session Monday. Senator Scott Wiener (D- San Francisco) unveiled his bill Tuesday, which he says will be a game changer for affordable housing.

In addition to the bill, there’s also a new study out Tuesday on what California can learn from Houston, Texas. 

“Houston's cut homelessness by more than half over the past decade," said Ned Resnikoff, policy director at California “Yes in My Backyard" (YIMY). "They've housed something like 25,000 individuals, and so the purpose of this report is really to figure out what's the difference between a city like Houston and a city like San Francisco or Los Angeles or San Diego."

“YIMY” is a statewide advocacy organization.

“The number one thing to understand is that because Houston lacks a traditional zoning code, they build a lot more housing than any large California city," he said. "A lot, a lot more housing.”

“In California cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco being two great examples," he added, "even if proposed development does meet all of the legal requirements, including zoning requirements, it's still possible for a city council member to to kill the project.”

Wiener agrees zoning needs to change in California, and he introduced legislation on Monday to address it.  

“This legislation will be a game changer for affordable housing for low-income and working-class Californians,” he said. 

His bill will automatically zone the excess land of churches, other religious institutions, and not-for-profit colleges for affordable housing and approve the project. 

“They want to build the housing, but the local zoning doesn't support it," Wiener said. "Or they'll have to go through a five or 10 year approval process, so this bill will solve that problem.”

Like many housing bills before this one, he is expecting opposition.

“Anytime you propose legislation around housing, there's going to be some opposition, and that's OK, that's democracy,"  said Wiener. "Sometimes there are just people that don't want to see new housing built at all."

Republican Assemblymember Joe Patterson said he is always open to talking about zoning reform.

"I've seen this being on a city council, how much that backlogs these projects," Patterson said. "There are some projects that will take five years to come before city council."

His issue with this bill is that it’s a blanket bill, and applies to cities like his (Rocklin), which he says is doing it right. 

"The big concern is the one size fits all because a lot of cities are doing their jobs, like for example, the city of Rocklin, which during my tenure six years, we never turned down a single project my entire time on the city council," he said. 

Senate Minority Leader-elect Brian Jones said he's also open to discussing the bill. 

“California Republicans agree that affordable housing is an important issue, as is affordable gasoline and providing relief to overtaxed Californians," Jones said. "California Republicans always stand ready to work with Democrats on fixing the problems they created during their dozen years of one-party rule. We look forward to vetting this proposal during the legislative process.”


Sacramento announces new affordable housing plan | To The Point full show

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