California's Urgent Search for Housing Solutions

Since the publication of this post in March 2018, there have been notable updates to housing legislation in California. Perhaps most widely discussed was the failure of SB 827. Legislators killed the bill almost instantly in its first committee hearing.

Despite amendments prior to the committee hearing, APA's California Chapter continued to oppose the legislation stating that it provided “no planning flexibility and [did] not take into consideration what is currently on the ground.” Preemption of local control continued to be a basis for challenging SB 827, many recognizing that the housing crisis cannot be solved with a “one size fits all” approach. For a full list of the chapter’s stance on hot bills, click here.

APA also released a set of Policy Principles for the Nation’s Housing Crisis with a call to action to address systemic housing issues through the collaboration of legislators, planners, developers and residents.


Housing affordability challenges across the nation are some of the most pressing yet controversial issues to address in state legislatures, and California is no exception.

Last fall, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a housing package of 15 bills that seek to address housing availability and affordability. The California Budget & Policy Center broke the bills down into five categories:

  1. Directly financing affordable housing production
  2. Facilitating private-market housing production by streamlining local review processes
  3. Increasing local accountability for accommodating a fair share of new housing development
  4. Harnessing private funding to pay for affordable housing development through inclusionary zoning
  5. Preserving the affordability of existing subsidized housing

While the 2017 housing package is a trailblazer for legislation within California and across the nation, experts recognize that this is just a first step in having a true impact on the affordability of homes. Further, many recognize that it is still too early to determine the influence of this package and what pieces of the problem it will adequately address.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development provides a list of bills and projected timelines, some of which extend well into 2020, while others are still to be determined.

Up Next? More Housing Bills

California legislators are not waiting to see how the 2017 package unfolds to proceed with additional housing proposals in 2018.

A number of housing bills have already been introduced. Perhaps the most controversial is SB 827, introduced by California State Sen. Scott Wiener. The legislation empowers the state to override local zoning laws, allowing developers to build taller and more densely near public transportation.

Wiener and proponents of the bill, such as the “California YIMBYs,” argue that SB 827 will not only aid housing affordability, but also ease the impact on the environment by encouraging the use of public transit. Opponents of the legislation are greatly concerned over the removal of local control, and some see it as another mechanism of gentrification.

While SB 827 is certainly drawing much attention, it does not stand alone. Wiener also introduced SB 828, which aims to reform the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) process. On the Assembly side, experts are keeping watch on AB 2631, relevant to the by-right process, and bills such as AB 2017 and AB 2939 regarding accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

Planners As a Resource

APA's California Chapter releases a series of position letters regarding Assembly and Senate bills — many of which encompass housing — conveying chapter concerns, opposition, support, or suggested amendments. Planners will continue to play an integral role in California housing legislation, both as implementation for the 2017 package begins and as new legislation is introduced.

Across the country, planners are a critical voice in ensuring that communities are accommodating housing needs. APA identifies expansion of housing choice and affordability as one of its four key priorities in 2018.

Next month at the National Planning Conference, policy experts will discuss APA’s housing work and forthcoming policy guide as a part of the Delegate Assembly. Continue to follow APA for national and state housing updates and actions.

Top image: California State Capitol building. Photo by Flickr user Jeff's Canon (CC BY-ND 2.0).


About the Author
Catherine Hinshaw is APA's state government affairs associate.

March 26, 2018

By Catherine Hinshaw