Momentum Gaining in Winning Housing Reforms, but Much Work Remains

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After years of relentless advocacy, housing leaders agree they’re starting to see the tide turn in the fight to reform outdated laws and regulations that have limited California’s ability to build new housing. That was among the messages delivered by speakers at a forum the Bay Area Council convened this week in partnership with ULI to discuss progress over the past few years, the outlook for a raft of new reform legislation currently making its way through the legislature and what’s ahead. Just a few years ago, housing was not high on Gov. Brown’s agenda and the prospects of winning major reforms was bleak. Gov. Newsom and his goal for creating 3.5 million new homes has helped spur more support statewide for housing reforms.

Council Senior Vice President Matt Regan moderated the discussion with Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners, former Co-Chair of the Council’s Housing Committee, Geeta Rao of Enterprise Community Partners and Mike Ghielmetti, President of Signature Properties Group and member of the Council’s Executive Committee.

Pinkston shared her experience of translating regional housing policy recommendations into statewide legislation, and attributed successes in passing reforms to building new alliances with groups usually at odds with each other. She emphasized that compromise is the key to achieving reforms on an issue that has become increasingly polarized.

Rao dove into the details of legislation approved last year that established the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA), which emphasizes regional approaches to housing reforms over a city-by-city approach. BAHFA is working to place a regional measure on the November 2020 ballot that would generate significant funding for affordable housing.

Ghielmetti, a leading and respected Northern California developer, highlighted some of the challenges that still remain. He cited a recent proposal in San Bruno that met with strong resistance even though it complied with all local zoning laws and regulations and included a significant community benefits package. He expressed optimism that the project can be revived, and he discussed how new laws like SB 35 (Wiener) are giving homebuilders more leverage to overcome local resistance.

See the presentation on housing reform legislation>>

All three agreed that much remains to be done to speed up badly needed reforms. They highlighted the importance of now enforcing new housing laws to ensure local communities are accountable. They also talked about the need for addressing skyrocketing construction costs. And they said it’s critical to keep the pedal to the metal in continuing to advocate for reforms and new legislation. To help bolster the Council’s housing reform advocacy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Many thanks to ULI San Francisco for partnering with us for this event!

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