California’s Housing Law Spurs Construction of Affordable Homes Amid Housing Shortage

A recent report published by the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation reveals that California’s Senate Bill 35 (SB 35) has played a vital role in the construction of thousands of new homes, offering an early indicator of success in addressing the state’s housing crisis.

Between 2018 and 2021, the law has led to 156 housing projects in California, comprising 18,215 proposed new units.

SB 35, which came into effect in 2018, aims to streamline the bureaucratic process for building multi-family projects in cities that are not meeting state-mandated housing goals.

The law incentivizes the inclusion of affordable housing units, especially in “infill” projects within urban areas. Notably, nearly two-thirds of the 156 projects are considered 100% affordable, designed specifically for lower-income families.

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While SB 35 has shown promise, experts emphasize that it is not a standalone solution to the state’s housing shortage. State officials assert that California must plan for 2.5 million new homes over the next eight years, with at least 1 million allocated for low- to very-low-income households, to address housing demand and tackle the homelessness crisis.

The report highlights the need for a comprehensive approach, combining multiple tools and legislation to achieve meaningful progress in boosting housing stock.

As state lawmakers consider expanding SB 35’s scope, Senate Bill 423, proponents hope that relaxing some labor requirements will attract a larger workforce to support these projects. Additionally, the proposal aims to include more communities in streamlined developments, potentially leading to increased housing in some of California’s wealthier regions.

While incremental progress has been made with SB 35, stakeholders emphasize the ongoing need for a multifaceted approach to tackle California’s pressing housing challenges effectively.

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