California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday approved two measures to slay local zoning ordinances as the most populous state grapples with soaring house prices, a shortage of affordable housing and stubborn homelessness.
He signed the most important legislation although nearly 250 cities objected that it would, by design, undermine local planning and control.
The result marks the final battle between what is now considered NIMBY against YIMBY. While most agree that there is a shortage of affordable housing, the proposed construction often faces “not in my backyard” opposition.
“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California dream of families across the state and threatening our long-term growth and prosperity,” Newsom said in announcing his endorsement.
He also announced that the state will invest $ 1.75 billion in what his administration calls a new housing accelerator in California, which he says will speed up construction of 6,500 affordable multi-family homes that had been stranded for lack of funding. tax-exempt obligations and housing tax for low-income people. credits.
This is part of the $ 22 billion the state plans to spend to spur new housing construction and make homelessness easier with the new laws.
The bill from Senate Leader Toni Atkins of San Diego would require cities to approve up to four housing units on what was once single-family land. They should also approve the splitting of single family lots so that they can be sold separately.
“For too many Californians, the thought of owning a house, renting a house big enough for their family, or even just being able to live in the community where they work is a distant dream,” said Atkins. “This law will help bridge the gap and make those dreams come true. “
Amid opposition from cities, Atkins included ways in which local governments can block construction that could harm public safety or public health or benefit real estate speculators. Homeowners looking to divide a lot should swear that they plan to have one of the units as their primary residence for at least three years.
This is not enough to avoid undermining local control, said 241 cities joined by the League of California Cities in a letter to Newsom, although they acknowledged that affordability and homelessness “are among the most pressing issues. most critical California cities are facing ”.
The bill “would undermine the ability of local governments to responsibly plan the kind of housing communities need, while usurping local democracy and the contribution of local residents,” said league executive director Carolyn Coleman.
Newsom has made the fight against homelessness a centerpiece of his administration and said he was pushed to even more urgency by a recall election that threatened to topple him mid-term. He survived when nearly two-thirds of voters decided to keep him in office this week.
Atkins, a fellow Democrat, earlier said the legislation was a long-standing and elusive goal driven by her own experience of growing up in a series of rentals when “the idea of the Atkins family owning their own home was … fancy. . ”
The median selling price of single-family homes in California is now $ 811,170, up 21.7% from July of last year.
Advocacy group California Community Builders said legislation approved by lawmakers this year would help narrow the racial wealth gap in California, where more than 60% of whites own their homes, compared to 35% of blacks and around. 40% of Latinos.
The Atkins measure was among those hailed this month by President Joe Biden’s administration.
Newsom also signed a bill from Democratic Senator Scott Wiener allowing local governments to rezone neighborhoods close to public transport for up to 10 housing units.
Wiener made his bill optional in response to opposition, but advocacy groups California YIMBY and California Community Builders have still welcomed its passage.
“It shouldn’t take 5 or 10 years for cities to change zones, and SB 10 gives cities a powerful new tool to get the job done quickly,” Wiener said.
Newsom said in a signature message that “some arrangements may have unforeseen impacts,” so he ordered housing officials to monitor his progress.
Several groups in the Sacramento neighborhood argued that Wiener’s bill would keep more lower and middle class residents as lifelong tenants because it encouraged apartment building ownership by large financial organizations. They also objected that it undermines local control and environmental protections.
Sacramento officials aim to make the California capital one of the first in the country to eliminate traditional single-family home zoning. Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis have passed similar ordinances in recent years. The state of Oregon passed a law eliminating the traditional zoning of single-family homes statewide.
Newsom also signed a bill extending a 2019 law designed to make it easier to build more housing across the state. This law was supposed to expire until 2025, but will now remain in force until 2030.
This year’s lawmakers failed to bring forward two more high-profile housing bills that would have facilitated the transformation of abandoned malls into apartment buildings.