Funding for Affordable Housing Headed for Vote in State Legislature

Host: Michael Krasny : kqed – excerpt (includes audio)
Guy Marzorati, reporter, KQED’s California Politics and Government Desk
Laura Foote Clark, executive director, Yimby Action
Tim Redmond, editor, 48 Hills.org
Fernando Marti, co-director, Council of Community Housing Organizations…

The California State legislature is set to vote on a package of affordable housing bills as early as this Friday. Among the bills is SB 35, which would streamline the approval process for development projects in cities that are not meeting regional affordable housing goals. Supporters of SB 35 say the measure is needed to tackle the state’s critical housing shortage. But opponents say the bill wrests control of housing policy from local governments and could actually make housing more expensive in low-income Bay Area neighborhoods. We take up the debate… Listen to the show here

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Comments by Tim Redmond:

…SB 35, the Wiener bill that would promote more market-rate housing development in the mistaken belief that more luxury condos will bring housing prices down, will come to the Assembly floor any day now. Fernando Marti, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, and I were on KQED Forum Friday debating this bill with Laura Foote Clark, executive director of Yimby Action; you can listen to the show here

What I told Clark was that the whole premise of SB 35 is false. No housing gets built without financing, and most financing comes from investors who want the maximum rate of return. The private market right now will never build housing for the middle class. If you built so much that prices started to soften, that money would go elsewhere.

Much of the affordable housing that cities get comes from forcing developers into building more below-market units than they want. Take away that tool and you will get less affordable housing. Not surprisingly, the landlords and developers are among the biggest backers of this bill, and tenant and anti-eviction groups are against it(more)

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Is California About to Clobber Local Control?

By Zelda Bronstein : newgeography – excerpt

The gradual decimation of local voice in planning has become accepted policy in Sacramento. The State Senate is now considering two dangerous bills, SB 35 and SB 167, that together severely curtail democratic control of housing.

SB 35: Housing Accountability and Affordability Act (Wiener)

SB 35, the brainchild of San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener, would force cities that haven’t met all their state-mandated Regional Housing Need Allocations to give by-right approval to infill market-rate housing projects with as little as 10% officially affordable housing.

SB 35 is anti-free speech and civic engagement. No public hearings, no environmental review, no negotiation over community benefits. Just “ministerial,” i.e., over-the-counter- approval.

SB 35 is pro-gentrification…

SB 167: Housing Accountability Act (Skinner)

This bill, introduced by State Senator Nancy Skinner, who represents Berkeley and other East Bay cities, and sponsored by the Bay Area Renters Federation (BARF), is a companion to SB 35. It would prohibit cities from disapproving a housing project containing units affordable to very low-, low- or moderate-income renters, or conditioning the approval in a manner that renders the project financially infeasible, unless, among other things, the city has met or exceeded its share of regional housing needs for the relevant income category. (As of November 2016, HUD defined a moderate-income household of four people in Alameda County as one earning under $112,300 a year.)

The bill defines a “feasible” project as one that is “capable of being accomplished in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic environmental, social, and technological factors.” It does not define “successful” or “reasonable.”

If a city does disapprove such a project, it is liable to a minimum fine of $1,000 per unit of the housing development project, plus punitive damages, if a court finds that the local jurisdiction acted in bad faith…(more)

AB 915, by Ting would guard against such bills as SB 35. AB 915 passed in the House and was sent to the Senate, so it appears to be doing a lot better than SB 167 so far.

Wiener Slams Housing Opponents

by Randy Shaw : beyondchron – excerpt

State Senator Scott Wiener has written a powerful letter accusing nonprofit housing leaders of providing “significant misinformation” about Wiener’s SB 35, which seeks to expedite housing development in California. Wiener’s April 15 letter directed to Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti of the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO) says he has “a major problem with any person or organization that disseminates misinformation and continues to do so even after being repeatedly corrected.”

In other words, Wiener is accusing CCHO’s leadership of lying about his bill. And he provides a point by point rebuttal to their arguments while noting that “several CCHO members and allied affordable housing partner organizations came out early to endorse SB 35, including Mercy Housing (CCHO member), Mission Housing (CCHO member), Bridge Housing, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, and the California Council for Affordable Housing.”

It’s rare to see an elected official writing a nine page letter to a bill’s opponents. And Wiener joined this with an equally long April 16 article for Medium, “Market-Rate Housing Isn’t a Bad Word, and We Won’t Solve the Housing Crisis Without It.”

Instead of allowing insider politics to derail SB 35, Wiener is challenging opponents to battle him on the merits of his ideas—and may the best ideas for addressing the state’s housing crisis win…

Noe Valley: No New Middle-Class Residents Allowed

Noe Valley has no signs on its borders barring new middle-class residents but it may as well. Home prices and rents are through the roof. Only the upper middle class and higher can now afford to buy a house or rent a vacant apartment… (more)

How are you supposed to build more housing in a completely developed neighborhood like Noe Valley without destroying what is there? How is the destruction worth the lower level of lifestyle and diminished quality of life we see in the city in the newly rebuilt neighborhoods? Why should anyone want to change what they feel is perfect just to make room for millionaires to store their money in new dense, units? When the major driving force is money, it is hard to believe there will be a happy ending for the residents who are being threatened by the greed, especially the tenants.