California state legislators approved more than a dozen bills to increase housing supply, promote fair housing, and address homelessness in the 2023 legislative session, which concluded on September 14. Many of the successful housing and homelessness bills were top priorities for NLIHC’s five California state partners, whose sponsorship and advocacy played a pivotal role in securing their passage. California Governor Gavin Newsom has already signed some top priority bills, including legislation to redress a racist provision of the state constitution and remove roadblocks to housing development. Governor Newsom faces a deadline of October 14 to approve the remaining bills.
“This year, Housing California, Residents United Network (RUN), and our coalition members advanced several impactful pieces of legislation, including Roadmap Home 2030 evidence-based solutions aimed at growing the supply of affordable housing, protecting renters, solving homelessness and addressing the deep racial inequities in our housing system,” said Chris Martin, policy director of Housing California, an NLIHC state partner. “These legislative wins highlight that when we work together, we can find powerful solutions to the state’s toughest problems.”
Governor Newsom signed SB 469 on September 8, which limits the scope of Article 34 of the state constitution. This racist constitutional amendment – adopted in 1950 as part of a backlash against housing integration – requires voter approval for the “development, construction, or acquisition of a publicly funded low-rent housing project,” which has hampered the development of affordable housing in California and reinforced racial segregation. Article 34 was interpreted to apply not only to new public housing but also to privately developed housing with state subsidies. SB 469 corrects this interpretation and limits the scope of Article 34 by exempting state-financed, privately developed affordable housing from its voter approval requirements. Affordable housing developments financed by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the Strategic Growth Council, or the Tax Credit Allocation Committee will no longer be subject to Article 34. In the 2024 election, California voters will have the chance to repeal Article 34 and remove this racist requirement from the state constitution altogether. SB 469 passed both chambers of the legislature on unanimous votes.
“While the passage of SB 469 is an important victory that frees most of California’s affordable housing developments from our racist history, Article 34 still imposes a racist public vote requirement on new public housing and must ultimately be repealed from the State Constitution. Voters will have a chance to do just that in 2024,” said Mark Stivers, director of advocacy at the California Housing Partnership, an NLIHC state partner. “In the meantime, SB 469’s exemption for state-financed developments will affirmatively further fair housing and reduce unnecessary costs, delays, and uncertainty in the development of desperately needed affordable homes. The California Housing Partnership, along with our partner the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, is proud to have suggested and co-sponsored this important measure, which takes effect January 1, 2024.”
Governor Newsom also signed AB 1307 on September 7, which establishes that the unamplified voices of residents in a residential project cannot be considered a significant environmental effect under the “California Environmental Quality Act” (CEQA). Although CEQA provides some important environmental protections, it is often weaponized to block affordable housing development. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks introduced the bill to remedy the impact of the First Appellate Court’s decision in Make UC a Good Neighbor et al. v. Regents of the University of California. The presiding judge stated that the University of California’s Environmental Impact Report failed to address the impact of noise from student residences in residential neighborhoods near campus. This case set the precedent that all residential housing projects could be required to complete an expensive, time-consuming Environmental Impact Report if unamplified voices of residents could cause an environmental impact.
This precedent essentially equated people with pollution and legitimized the claim that certain groups of people could be considered an environmental harm because of the perceived risk of their behavior – an assumption that exacerbates racist and classist assumptions about affordable housing. AB 1307 narrowly addresses the Court’s ruling by stating that noises generated by the unamplified voices of residents cannot be considered a significant environmental effect under CEQA. This change prevents legal challenges to residential development based on speculation that the new residents will create unwanted noise. NLIHC state partners California Housing Partnership and Housing California were among the bill’s cosponsors, and it passed with unanimous support in both chambers of the legislature.
As housing advocates celebrate the signing of SB 469 and AB 1307, they also await Governor Newsom’s signature on a range of other priority bills. Some of the bills on Governor Newsom’s desk include:
- The “Affordable Housing on Faith and Higher Education Lands Act” (SB 4), which will provide a streamlined process for religious organizations and nonprofit colleges to develop affordable housing on their property regardless of local zoning restrictions.
- AB 1449, which exempts certain 100% affordable housing projects from CEQA to facilitate affordable housing development.
- AB 1418, which will prohibit cities and counties from enacting “crime-free housing” programs and policies that include discriminatory provisions, such as requiring landlords to evict tenants for alleged criminal activity or contact with law enforcement.
- The “Tribal Housing Reconstitution and Resiliency Act” (SB 18), which will create a first-ever Tribal Housing Grant Program.
- The “Homelessness Prevention Act” (SB 567), which closes loopholes that undermine the California Tenant Protection’s Act just cause eviction protections and provides clear mechanisms for accountability and enforcement against violations of the Tenant Protection Act.
A future Memo article will provide further details and updates on additional legislation signed by Governor Newsom between September 22 and October 14.
For more information on SB 469, visit: https://chpc.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/SB-469-Fact-Sheet.pdf
For more information on AB 1307, visit: https://calhsng.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/AB-1307-Fact-Sheet-No-CEQA-on-Unamplified-Voices-March-2023.pdf
For Housing California’s summary of the 2023 legislative session, visit: https://www.housingca.org/news-media/statements/2023-legislative-session-summary/
For more information on NLIHC’s California state partners, visit https://nlihc.org/housing-needs-by-state/california and click the “State Level Partners” tab.