The state Senate passed a bill on Thursday to streamline apartment construction and ease California’s housing affordability crisis.
SB 423 from Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) keeps alive his previous bill that allowed by-right construction of multi-family projects in cities that had not met their state-mandated housing goals, known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment.
Between 2018 and 2021, SB 35 — the bill SB 423 extends indefinitely — has resulted in 19,239 housing units, 60% of those being affordable units, according to Senate analysis. Without SB 423, SB 35 would have sunset at the end of 2025.
“Taking steps to strengthen and extend SB 35, one of our strongest tools to boost housing production, is an absolutely essential step to tackle the crisis of housing affordability,” Wiener said in a news release.
“Cities across California are relying on this legislation to meet their housing goals. I’m delighted by the growing support this bill has attracted from my colleagues, the labor movement, anti-poverty groups, and business leaders, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Assembly to advance the bill further.”
Cities and Labor Groups Oppose SB 35
The new bill removes previous labor requirements for “skilled and trained workers,” the Associated Press reports. Instead, it mandates prevailing wage be paid to workers on projects, much to the ire of several labor groups, including the State Building and Construction Trades Council, according to a Senate analysis of the bill.
The League of California Cities opposes the bill because it proposes a “one size fits all solution” without public input or environmental review, the analysis stated.
But Wiener says that SB 35 enables California to produce both affordable housing and stable, high-wage jobs.
Cities that have not met RHNA goals would be subject to SB 35, which requires cities to approve housing projects regardless of local zoning laws or the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA. All but 29 cities and counties are subject to streamlining under SB 35.
All of Fresno County is subject to SB 35. Both Fresno and Clovis have not met their goals to create low- and very-low-income housing. Thus, new builds with at least 50% affordable residences, are subject to SB 35’s requirements.
The bill now heads to the Assembly.