…Looking Back on the 2019 Legislative Session

Back in May, California YIMBY and housing activists across the state took a huge setback when the state Senate — and really, a single Senator — blocked progress on one of our top legislative priorities: SB 50, the More HOMES Act. That setback hurt, but I’m here to tell you this is a fight we’ll continue until we’ve won:

California YIMBY is still 100% committed to passing SB 50 and making it legal to build multi-family homes and apartment buildings near jobs and transit in our cities. While some erroneous reports claimed that the bill is dead, it is very much alive — we’ll have a chance to pass it early in 2020, and will be calling on your help when the time comes.

But this note isn’t about our ongoing battle to pass SB 50 and allow the construction of More Homes. It’s about the raft of victories we won in the legislature this year.

These policy victories show that our movement is growing in size, diversity, and impact. The list of successes is substantial: 

  • Effectively ended single-family zoning in California. Yes, you read that right! With the passage of a series of bills addressing Accessory Dwelling Units (a.k.a. Granny Flats, or ADUs), it is now legal for homeowners to build two additional units of housing on their properties, even if they’re zoned for single-family homes. The bills — AB 68, AB 881, SB 13, and AB 670 — could lead to tens of thousands of new homes across the state each year (including in exclusive, single-family areas governed by homeowners’ associations). We worked tirelessly with allies across the state to get these bills across the finish line, and are proud to have sponsored two of the four bills.
  • Helped pass new rent caps and protections against unjust evictions. We remain steadfastly committed to making sure California solves its housing shortage by building more homes. But in the meantime, we know people are suffering — from no-fault evictions, from huge rent increases, and from having to make impossible choices about whether to pay for housing, or healthcare, or food. These pressures just got a form of relief in AB 1482, which caps annual rent increases across the state while also prohibiting evictions that aren’t for a specific, legal cause. We feel strongly that these protections are a necessary measure while we work to increase the production of housing for renters and buyers at all ends of the income spectrum.
  • Joined a coalition to help pass protections for low-income families against housing discrimination.  In too many California cities, landlords routinely turn away potential tenants who pay some or all of their rent with housing vouchers — even though vouchers typically cover the full cost of the rent. With the passage of SB 329, that practice is now illegal, and our neighbors who need rental assistance will no longer need to fear being turned away just because of how they pay the rent.
  • Passed a “moratorium on moratoria”. One of the many unethical things that cities do to prevent the construction of more homes is to pass moratoria or similar laws designed to prevent new development. These de-facto “housing bans” are often described as “solutions” to the housing crisis — even though they make it worse. And now, thanks to the signing into law of SB 330, they’re illegal: No city or county in California can pass a building moratorium through 2025.

We’ve always believed that zoning reform is a necessary — but insufficient — part of the solution to the housing crisis. While we can’t solve the housing crisis without making it legal to build more homes, we must also make sure that we protect current residents from displacement and eviction, and preserve and expand existing affordable housing so that communities can remain intact and thrive as they grow.

YIMBYs know that the only way to solve our housing crisis is through a holistic, comprehensive approach. So in addition to supporting the above bills that are now on their way to becoming state law, we’ve joined the Schools and Communities First campaign, a diverse group of advocates seeking to reform corporate tax loopholes that hinder efforts to invest in our communities. We’re also helping launch a campaign to change our state’s Constitution to make it impossible for NIMBYs to block housing for very low-income residents and people experiencing homelessness.

There are many other tools in the toolkit, and a lot of work to be done. The housing crisis didn’t happen overnight; it’s the result of decades of bad policy, neglect, and NIMBYism. At California YIMBY, we’re in this fight for the long haul, and on many fronts: zoning reform, rent caps for tenants, subsidies for low-income housing, Granny Flats, preservation of communities, protections from eviction — an emphatic “Yes” to all the great things we can do in our communities as we work to solve the housing crisis.

YIMBY starts with “Yes.” And we’re unwavering in our commitment to saying yes to all the solutions.


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