Council Battles Stiff Opposition on Fast Track Housing Bill
It’s do or die time for legislation the Bay Area Council is championing to help combat California’s epic housing crisis. As legislators returned from summer recess this week, the Council stepped up its advocacy for a bill to spur new urban infill housing close to transit that is affordable for working Californians. The bill includes reforms proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown to remove a largely redundant and often time-consuming layer of local review, allowing cities to give simple administrative or “by right” approval of housing developments that meet all existing local planning, building and zoning regulations and that set aside either 20 percent of new homes for middle- and lower-income residents or 10 percent when the development is located close to transit.
The bill is facing stiff opposition from powerful state building trades unions that use the local housing approval process as a negotiating tool to force union contracts. The state’s historic housing shortage is the main reason for skyrocketing rents and home prices that consume up to 60 percent of household income for middle class and working families and give California the dubious distinction of having the nation’s highest poverty rate. The problem has become even more acute as the state adds more jobs than housing units. A report this week by a prominent global real estate services firm found that the Bay Area added five times more jobs in 2015 than housing units. Without enough housing in the Bay Area, a growing number of workers are commuting longer distances and undermining California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the state’s aggressive climate change goals.
We need your help to keep the pressure on in Sacramento as the Legislature wraps its work in the next few weeks. Here’s what you can do: