The bill, which has passed with bi-partisan support in each committee, now heads to the Senate Floor. SB 540 will give local governments new tools to plan for and approve workforce housing, and create a more streamlined path by eliminating some of the delays and uncertainty that currently block housing construction.
“The League and its member cities recognize the important role that cities play in planning for and approving new housing,” said Carolyn Coleman, League of California Cities executive director. “That’s why the League is taking an active role in fashioning legislative solutions to our housing crisis.”
Specifically, under SB 540 cities and counties would identify priority housing areas — called Workforce Housing Zones — within their boundaries. The local government would conduct enhanced planning, important environmental reviews and public engagement at the front end with specific details as to what type of housing would be built within the zone. Because the local government has fully conducted the extensive environmental reviews at the front-end, no project-specific additional environmental reviews would be necessary.
By some estimates, SB 540 would shave off one to two years off the development timeline without compromising environmental protection, public health, local control or the rights of citizens to participate in local land use decisions.
SB 540 is one piece of the League’s “Blueprint for More Housing” legislative package. The League also supports SB 2 (Atkins) & SB 3 (Beall) to increase funding for affordable housing and boost housing supply. These two measures are also headed to the Senate Floor.
“Many have been critical of local governments for the lack of construction in our communities. These criticisms largely ignore the realities of the private housing market, the limited resources for affordable housing and the conditions that encourage or discourage new housing development,” continued Coleman.
In fact, according to an informal survey of cities conducted by the League, throughout the state tens of thousands of housing units have been approved by local governments, but developers have not built because the market conditions are not right.
“We believe we can reform our housing laws to stimulate new housing production in a way that preserves local decision making and important opportunities for local community input,” said Coleman. “There is much that we can do together this year to create a roadmap to new housing construction. The League of California Cities and its members stand ready to be part of responsible solutions.”