California State Senate moves towards a common goal: Affordable Housing for California

There are two major housing proposals making their way through the Sacramento legislative process; Senate Bill 879 by Senator Jim Beall (D – San Jose) and a housing proposal by Governor Jerry Brown and Senate pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Both proposals are working toward providing mechanisms to make affordable housing more available on the market — along with providing additional housing to those experiencing homelessness. Ultimately, it is expected that Legislators will finalize details into one comprehensive legislative package, but until then, it’s important to stay informed on the issues that could be a part of the final deal.


Senator Jim Beall (D- San Jose)

First – SB 879 by Senator Beall will include a $3 Billion Housing Bond to address these housing concerns. This measure passed the Senate Floor with a 28-9 vote on Thursday. The bonds would be issued and applied to various programs to assist with providing more affordable housing for families and addressing homelessness concerns in communities.

Key provisions of SB 879:

  • $1.5 Billion for Multi-Family Rental Housing – Housing construction, rehabilitation, or preservation of permanent transitional rentals for lower-income households and homeless through loans to local governments and developers;
  • $300 Million for Transit-Oriented Housing – Gap financing for rental housing developments that have affordable housing and mortgage assistance for mortgage development. Grants available to local governments and transit authorities to develop infrastructure and affordable housing that are within 1/4 mile of public transit;
  • $300 Million for Local Housing Trust Fund Matching Program – Matching grant fund for local governments and non-profits that raise funds for affordable housing; and
  • $300 Million for CalHome – Grant funds to assist local government and non-profit developers assist individual homeowners through deferred-payment loan programs.

Governor Brown is working with pro Tem De Leon on a comprehensive housing package as well. One key component of the plan is changing the way local governments approve multi-family housing developments. Brown’s plan calls for a streamlined approval process if developers commit at least 20% of their units as affordable housing. This will focus on urban housing developments and include additional incentives for housing located near public transit. Specifically, if a development is near public transit and at least 10% of the housing is designated as affordable housing, the developer also qualifies for the expedited approval process.

The plan also calls for qualified plans to already meet the existing zoning requirements of the area in which the developer seeks to build. In other words, the area must already be zoned for high density housing. At the root of the plan is the philosophy that the California housing affordability crisis is related to a lack of supply. The plan aims to provide more housing on the market, thus lowering housing prices and making it more achievable for Californians to become homeowners. It is this foundational perspective that must drive our approach to housing in California.

With the housing affordability crisis reaching these concerning heights, it is time to examine real options to maximize the state’s investment in housing and remove obstacles to add denser housing stock.

Recent research shows that adding available housing to the market will help lessen the housing crisis we are facing here in California. These proposals are a good first step in opening the door to conversation and negotiation about how to get those in need into homes of their own.

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