Senate Introduces ‘Building Opportunities for All’ Housing Package to Address California’s Ongoing Crisis
SACRAMENTO – Given the critical need to address the housing crisis in California, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), along with colleagues Senators Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), today announced the ‘Building Opportunities for All’ Senate Housing Package, which includes six bills aimed at offering housing opportunities and solutions for Californians.
“California was in the throes of a housing crisis long before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic has now intensified the need for housing affordability, access, and opportunity,” Atkins said. “Each one of these bills is targeted at an element of the housing crisis, and together, they give us a unified approach that would create pathways to home ownership, stable housing for vulnerable families, and a pathway to economic stability for Californians across the golden state.”
In February 2020, Pro Tem Atkins established a group of Senators to work on housing production. Senators María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Richard Roth (D-Riverside), and Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), have been working since then toward housing solutions for all Californians. Each one of these Senators have been instrumental in developing the policy included in this package, and their commitment to working on the common goal of housing production has, and will continue to be, integral.
Senator Atkins, who has long been a champion of affordable housing and authored landmark legislation to create the state’s first permanent funding source for affordable housing, introduced the following legislation:
- SB 7, which expands and extends the popular California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) streamlining process created for environmental leadership development projects under AB 900.
- SB 9, which allows more homeowners to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in residential areas.
Senator Caballero introduced SB 6, which authorizes residential development on existing lots currently zoned for commercial office and retail space such as strip malls or large “big box” retail spaces. The bill requires the development of residential units be at a minimum density to accommodate affordable housing and abide by existing local planning and development ordinances.
“SB 6 is permissive and allows local government to expedite residential development on existing lots currently zoned for commercial office and retail, such as strip malls and large “big box” retail. This infill development bill requires that the residential units be built to a minimum density to accommodate housing which is affordable, and is required to comply with all local planning and development ordinances.”
Senator Skinner’s SB 8 will address California’s housing crisis by focusing on opportunities to ensure housing production can continue to move forward in the state.
“Plain fact is: California does not have enough housing. This shortage has made housing unaffordable and is a key reason that so many Californians are unsheltered. Add that to our current pandemic-induced unemployment, and we have countless families now struggling to pay their rent or mortgage payments,” Senator Skinner said. “The Senate’s housing package, including my bill SB 8, is aimed at resolving the housing shortage and addressing housing unaffordability. I’m honored to be part of this effort.”
Senator Wiener introduced SB 10, which allows cities to upzone areas close to job centers, transit, and existing urbanized areas to allow up to ten units without having to go through the lengthy CEQA process. SB 10 will make it easier for cities to build housing affordable to young people and working families.
“California’s untenable housing shortage is pushing people into poverty and homelessness and threatens our environment, economy, and diversity,” said Senator Wiener, Chair of the Senate Housing Committee. “SB 10 provides cities with a powerful, fast, and effective new tool to allow light-touch density exactly where it should be: near jobs, near public transportation, and in existing urbanized areas that do not push into wildfire zones. SB 10 and the other bills in the Senate 2021 housing package will help move California toward a brighter housing future.”
Senators Atkins, Caballero, McGuire, Roth, Rubio, Skinner, and Wiener also jointly introduced SB 5, which establishes the initial framework for a statewide housing bond that would fund the creation of new affordable housing for homeless and low-income families.
The Senate Housing Package, which builds on legislation that was vetted and supported last year, will begin moving forward following the Legislature’s return to session in January.
Senators who are part of the working group on housing production offered the following perspectives on the ‘Building Opportunities for All’ package:
Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach): “Housing solutions are long overdue for the people of California. Rising rents and mortgages in the absence of affordable and low-income housing has made it increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet for years, and that financial struggle has been heavily exacerbated over the past year due to COVID-19. The eviction moratorium is about to expire, and it is without question that the California Legislature must take strong action to meet the housing needs of Californians. I am proud to be a part of this concerted effort with my Senate colleagues to put forth effective, impactful solutions to address the state’s housing crisis.”
Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg): "The pandemic has heightened California’s affordable housing crisis that exists in big cities and small, in every corner of this state. There is still so much work to be done, and the Senate’s 2021 housing package advances desperately needed funding and innovative solutions to one of the Golden State’s biggest challenges — the lack of housing for working families and seniors. We’re all grateful for Senate President Atkins’ tenacity to get these bills passed and housing built.”
Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside): “I applaud Pro Tempore Atkins for her leadership in tackling the housing shortage and lack of affordability in CA. As we continue to respond to the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis, we cannot lose sight of the work we need to do in order to combat the ongoing housing crisis. We must ensure that housing is built where people need it and that it’s accessible to California families.”
Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park): “As a former city councilwoman, I understand how important it is for state and local leaders to work together to solve California’s housing crisis. It’s not a surprise to any of us that California urgently needs hundreds of thousands of new homes. The Senate housing package contains real solutions to spur housing production by unlocking underutilized land, streamlining the planning process, and increasing funding for affordable housing programs. These bills are the result of years of conversations with diverse stakeholders and I’m proud of the balanced approach that we have crafted. The financial uncertainty that many families face because of COVID-19 highlights the need for us to act now to build more housing – especially affordable housing – in California.”
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins