The Homework Newsletter

The HomeWork: September 28, 2023

September 25, 2023

Welcome to the September 28, 2023 Main edition of The Homework, the official newsletter of California YIMBY — legislative updates, news clips, housing research and analysis, and the latest writings from the California YIMBY team.

News from Sacramento

We are happy to announce that most of our sponsored and high-priority bills made it through the Legislature and are on the Governor’s desk. The Governor has until October 14th to sign or veto bills – stay tuned for more alerts from California YIMBY about the signing (and celebration!) process.

California YIMBY sponsored and high-priority bills that await the Governor’s signature include (California YIMBY sponsored bills are starred):

  • AB 1633 (Ting)* ends the inappropriate use of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by jurisdictions that attempt to block new housing developments that have already been found in compliance with local and state land use and environmental regulations.

  • SB 423 (Wiener)* permanently extends the provisions of SB 35, reducing housing costs while ensuring that new affordable and mixed-income homes are built faster in the places they’re most needed.

  • AB 976 (Ting)*: will permanently prohibit local agencies from imposing owner-occupancy requirements on accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

  • SB 4 (Wiener) provides a streamlined process for religious organizations and nonprofit colleges to develop affordable housing on their property.

  • AB 835 (Lee): Requires the State Fire Marshal to study standards for single-stairway multifamily buildings above three stories and provide a report to the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management and the California Building Standards Commission by January 1, 2025.

To review all the housing bills California YIMBY has sponsored, supported, and tracked this legislative year, you can now use our Abstract link to track with us.

Housing Research & Analysis

Think Locally, Upzone Globally

Overly restrictive zoning is a major factor contributing to the housing shortage and affordability crisis. In a new paper, Jack Y Favilukis and Jaehee Song present a new theory to explain why some municipalities have more restrictive zoning than others: the metro area’s level of fragmentation.

The authors find empirical evidence that metros that are divided into more jurisdictions have more restrictive zoning. Where zoning decision-making is very decentralized, voters and policymakers often think very locally and support restrictive zoning in their own small community, but they fail to internalize the costs of restrictive zoning on the metro as a whole.

Key takeaways:

  1. Metro areas that are split into more administrative entities, i.e. are more fragmented, have more restrictive zoning. Administrative fragmentation alone explains 18 percent of the variation in residential zoning across US metros.

  2. If a moderately decentralized metro had a centralized planning authority, its zoning is 38 percent less stringent.

  3. This research has clear implications for public policy: make zoning decisions less hyper-local.

Next Experiment in the Laboratories of Democracy: Housing Progress

With the end of the California legislative session on September 14, several major housing bills were approved by the Legislature and sent to Governor Newsom’s desk. While attention has been focused on California, a number of other states have passed major housing reforms in 2023.

A recent policy brief from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University highlights some of this year’s key housing legislative victories across the nation. Most states, though not all, had completed their legislative sessions by the time the brief was published in early August.

Key takeaways:

  1. Four states passed major housing “packages” in 2023: Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Each of these states enacted a collection of policy reforms aiming to expand housing supply.

  2. Other states achieved smaller, yet still significant, housing victories. Bills to streamline permitting processes, expand residential uses in commercial zones, and make it easier to build ADUs were passed in multiple states.

  3. Major housing reforms were proposed in Arizona, Colorado, and New York but failed to pass. Ambitious and broad in scope, these bills attracted significant opposition.

Houser Headlines

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