It’s the 2022 California Legislative Session, and They’re Churning Out More Housing Bills

By Sharon Byrne   |   March 22, 2022

Here they come! If you feel a little confused about what the state might be up to re housing, here’s a handy primer:

1. California officials said the state is 3.5 million units short of housing, a statistic used relentlessly to drive Senate Bills 9 and 10 last year, whose primary mission was to end single-family residential zoning by allowing multiple units on SFR lots. That 3.5 million came from a deeply flawed and thoroughly discredited 2015 study.

2. Housing and Community Development Department imposes housing needs quotas on municipalities – the Regional Housing Needs Allowance. Those quotas have driven a lot of market-rate housing, and very little affordable housing.

3. This year, the state revised its missing housing number to 2.5 million. Probably because the Biden Administration estimates the number of housing units needed in the entire US at 3.9 million.

4. Realtors, California Chamber of Commerce, and California YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard activists, well-funded by tech companies) pressure legislators with “build, baby, build!” They have been very successful at asserting a narrative that supply is the problem, and NIMBYs (Not in My Backyard homeowners) and cities block supply, conveniently ignoring high numbers of vacant homes, vacation rentals eating into housing supply, large-scale investors buying up housing to turn it into rentals, etc. 

5. Justice Groups and Communities of Color have demanded affordable housing, and rightly so. They contend that unleashing the forces of speculation and market-rate housing displace lower-income residents and hurt communities of color. Local example: the little crop of tiny blue homes on Haley, just east of Garden. It’s about to become luxury condos. What happens to those residents, and that last bit of affordable housing?

With that context, here are some of the 2022 bills:

AB1961: Assemblymember Gabriel, San Fernando Valley. Requires the state to provide an online database of affordable housing listings, information, and applications. It also requires the information be integrated with local governments. Why is it good? Affordable housing has been mandated at times with housing projects as inclusionary building. “You want to build 80 units? Make eight affordable,” to get past municipal planning. Affordable units often aren’t tracked after production, so they might fall off the affordable rolls, but cities don’t know it.

Santa Barbara City Council discussed a rental registry, and this could be very helpful. How do you know how much rental housing you’ve actually got for people to live in, versus how much has been profitized, i.e., turned into vacation rentals?

AB1991: Assemblymember Gabriel – requires motels serving as temporary shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness, not evict them any differently than they would normal guests, move them around without reason, etc. In our Hands Across Montecito project, and the city’s attempt at temporarily housing people in the Rose Garden Inn, we witnessed such treatment of some of the folks we were trying to shelter.

AB1771 – California Housing Speculation Act: Assemblymember Ward, San Diego. It really should be the Anti-Housing Speculation Act. Massive infusions of non-wage capital have driven housing prices higher worldwide, and some governments, like Barcelona, Canada, and Berlin, have tried to lessen the impact of institutional investors on their housing markets. California is now going to attempt to take its place on that world stage. This bill levies a 25% surtax on the profit from the sale of homes owned for less than three years. The penalty is reduced over time each year after the third year, to zero, by year seven. There are exceptions for first-time homebuyers who trade up, military families, etc. 

The rationale: most Californians own their homes six years or more, so this doesn’t affect them, but could help tamper the forces of speculation that have been running rampant. When even Zillow is flipping houses inside of a week, and families can’t compete, something has to change.

AB1910 – Incentivize Conversion: Accessible Open Space & Affordable Housing; Assemblymember Garcia, Bell Gardens. Allows municipalities to convert golf courses to affordable housing. “Studies show low-income communities and communities of color lack access to open space and lack housing security,” Garcia tweeted on her assemblymember account. Wouldn’t paving over golf courses to create housing, as nobly intentioned as this is, remove open space? Garcia is now running for a newly opened Congressional seat, as a result of redistricting.

AB2053 – The California Social Housing Act: Assemblymember Lee, San Jose.

He tried this last year, and it never got out of committee. The Big Idea is to create a California Housing Authority to produce and preserve social housing that is owned and run by a government or nonprofit. People with higher incomes subsidize the housing for those with lower incomes. It looks like they’re trying to cob off the Vienna model, where public housing is built on government land, dramatically reducing the cost. Vienna’s government owns 220,000 units of social housing. This might not be replicable in California without that government-owned land piece. It might be another “we’re making progress on housing!” feel-good bill that just creates a new government agency – but doesn’t deliver anything.

Supervisor Hart, running for our newly created Assembly District, has talked about bringing back the state’s Redevelopment Agency. That would help the cause of affordable housing immensely.

Short-Term Vacation Rental Ordinance Update: The county doesn’t have one, as it was struck down by the Coastal Commission in 2018. It – might – get on the county’s work plan for this year. The city of San Diego’s ordinance, however, just got approval. They placed a 1% cap on how much of their housing stock could be financialized to short-term rentals, and the Coastal Commission okayed it. Caps provide a tool to better regulate your housing market. Good for San Diego! Hope we can do something similar in our county, soon. 

Contact your reps and let them know what you think:

Supervisor Das Williams (STR ordinance):
Senator Monique Limón:
Assemblymember Steve Bennett: 


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