As the proposed state budget nears its June 15th deadline, the spotlight surrounding Governor Brown’s plan to streamline approvals for affordable housing developments continues to grow. The “By-Right” provision would bolster other housing components of the budget, including a $2 billion measure towards mental health needs for the homeless and an additional $445 million in housing subsidies for low income families. The plan is part of this year’s May revision, and has sparked both enthusiasm and questions from many Californians. Here is a brief outline of what the provision entails, and why its implementation is crucial in securing a brighter future for all of California.
Governor Brown’s proposal to expedite affordable housing development is a critical first step in addressing California’s severe housing challenges. Over the last seven years the state has only built 45 percent of the units estimated to be needed to accommodate growth. This widening disparity is due in part to stringent development and regulatory procedures, with permitting processes in many California communities taking a third longer than the average American city.
The Governor’s plan, known as the “By-Right” provision, would streamline the development of housing with an affordable component by avoiding many of the redundant or unnecessary restrictions on building approvals. For a developer to speed up the local approvals process, they would have to meet this set of requirements:
- At least 20 percent of the housing is provided for low income residents. If the site is in a Transit Priority Area (TPA), then at least 10 percent of the housing must go to lower income residents.
- The development must meet local zoning and general plan standards, which incorporate environmental regulation such as the California Environmental Quality Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
- The site must be attached multifamily housing of two or more units, and must be an infill site.
- If all objective criteria are satisfied, development is approved to apply for building permits.
In effect, the Governor’s By-Right provision would comply with local communities’ planning and environmental requirements, but would avoid lengthy and inefficient reviews that have resulted in cost and delays in bringing housing to market. At a critical juncture in California’s housing shortage, the By-Right proposal is exactly the kind of legislation needed to combat California’s housing crisis.