Asm. Low Bill to Reduce Barriers to Housing Construction Heads to Governor

Friday, September 15, 2017

SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley)’s Assembly Bill 1397 passed the State Legislature today. Assembly Bill 1397 strengthens state planning laws to ensure local governments are doing everything they can to identify sites that are truly suitable for both affordable and market-rate housing. The bill is part of a package of bills to address California’s housing shortage.

“Home ownership has become unattainable for far too many hard-working Californians,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley). “The Legislature has taken an important step to address the housing crisis by reducing barriers to construction, creating incentives to development, and providing a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing. I am proud to be part of this smart, multifaceted approach to solving one of our state’s most pressing issues.”

One of the greatest barriers to solving California’s housing crisis is the lack of appropriate sites on which new housing can be built—in the right places and at the right densities—to meet demand for all income levels. AB 1397 addresses this by tightening the standards for what constitutes an adequate site under California’s Housing Element Law.

California’s Housing Element Law requires every local government to identify sufficient land, with appropriate zoning, to accommodate enough housing to meet its share of the regional housing need at all income levels. Unfortunately, current law has a number of gaps that allow jurisdictions to circumvent this critical planning obligation, relying on sites that aren’t truly available or feasible for residential development, especially multifamily development.

AB 1397 strengthens our state’s Housing Element Law by limiting the reliance of local governments on sites that do not have a realistic capacity for development of housing.

Specifically the bill would:

  • Establish higher standards and require a stronger analysis before allowing sites with existing uses to be considered suitable for residential development.
  • Limit reliance on sites that are too large or too small.
  • Limit reliance on sites that have been recycled across multiple Housing Elements without developing as housing.

AB 1397 is supported by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Public Advocates, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, among others. The bill heads to the Governor for his signature.