It was a good news, bad news week in the Bay Area Council’s continuing fight to loosen the grip of the state’s historic housing shortage and affordability crisis. Legislation (SB 831) the Council is sponsoring to eliminate many of the fees that represent a financial obstacle to building accessory dwelling units (ADU), aka granny units, cleared a key Senate committee this week. The bill by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont) builds on reform legislation the Council sponsored in 2015 that has unleashed a statewide surge in ADUs. Fees and other regulatory barriers can add many tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of building an ADU. The Council estimates that making it faster, easier and less expensive for homeowners to build ADUs could result in the addition of well over 150,000 affordable housing units in the Bay Area alone.

Not all the news was positive, however. Legislation by Sen. Scott Wiener (San Francisco) that the Council was backing was defeated in committee after building trades, social equity and city government groups loudly opposed it. SB 827 stoked a statewide debate and gained national attention for its bold approach to promoting transit-oriented housing development. The bill would have allowed more home building near transit-rich areas like BART and Caltrain, but opponents feared it would lead to displacement of existing residents and weakened local control over housing decisions. The Council is looking forward to working with Sen. Wiener to bring the legislation back next year and we applaud his leadership in addressing a crisis that is hurting millions of Californians and threatening to harm the state’s economy.

Coming up, the Council will be returning to the state capitol next Tuesday to advocate for legislation (SB 1277) by Sen. Nancy Skinner (Oakland) that we are sponsoring that would address a huge statewide shortage of student housing. An estimated 762,585 California college students experience housing insecurity or homelessness. SB 1227 would authorize 35 percent more units in student housing developments that meet a variety of affordability requirements and exempt them from costly parking requirements. To join our coalition in support or SB 1227 and engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.