California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two bills into law this week which are expected to help boost the state’s housing supply. However, experts predict neither of the measures is likely to produce the number of houses needed to resolve the housing crisis fully.

Senate Bills 9 and 10 were signed on Thursday, Sept. 16, and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

According to the Mercury News, Senate Bill 9 will allow property owners to split a single-family lot into two lots, add a second home to their lot or split their lot into two and build duplexes on each. The last option will create four housing units on a property currently limited to a single-family house.

The new law marks a change from current policies that allow only two large units—a stand-alone house and an accessory dwelling unit—on single-family lots, as well as an attached junior unit no larger than 500 square feet.

The law also requires cities and counties across California to approve development proposals that meet specified size and design standards.

Senate Bill 9 is designed to create additional housing while also preserving low-income, affordable units.

The new law stipulates that any rental housing or market-rate housing occupied by a tenant over the past three years cannot be demolished for a new project.

Some land is exempt from development

Properties listed as historic landmarks or those located within a historic district are also exempt from new development. Wetlands and farmland are also to remain untouched.

Should someone decides to split their property in two, each new lot must be at least 1,200 square feet.

According to the law, any housing unit created under the new law cannot be used for short-term rentals but must be rented for longer than 30 days.

Upzoning their properties will be permitted for homeowners and landlords under the condition they intend to live on their property for at least three years. This will require an affidavit to be signed stating their intention to occupy the housing unit as their primary residence after splitting their property or adding additional units.

Any new housing units created under Senate Bill 9 must only be utilized for residential purposes. The developments must follow local zoning rules such as those governing height and yard size requirements.

Providing the additional units are within a half-mile radius of a main public transit stop, extra parking for additional units is not required.

Can Senate Bill 9 make a substantial difference to the housing shortage?

A study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley revealed that just 5.4% of California’s current single-family lots could be developed under the new law, constructing up to 714,000 new housing units. That is only a tiny fraction of the 3.5 million new housing units Newsom wants to see built by 2025.

What does Senate Bill 10 do?

Regarding Senate Bill 10, the law helps alleviate the process for local governments to rezone neighborhoods near mass transit or in urban areas to increase density with apartment complexes of up to 10 units per property if it is located in a “transit-rich area.”

The new law allows cities to bypass lengthy review requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act to help reduce costs and the time it takes for projects to be approved.

The office of Gov. Newsom said on Sept. 16 that the new laws would streamline housing permits and increase density to create more inclusive and vibrant neighborhoods across the state. They will also help address the interrelated problems of climate change and housing affordability by promoting denser housing closer to major employment hubs—a critical element in limiting California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Newsom highlighted the state’s ongoing work to spur more housing production, tackle barriers to construction and hold local governments accountable.

“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” said Newsom. “Making a meaningful impact on this crisis will take bold investments, strong collaboration across sectors and political courage from our leaders and communities to do the right thing and build housing for all.”

However, State Bill 9 has faced fierce opposition from a wave of California cities, as well as neighborhood groups and some state legislators, while State Bill 10 has received some criticism from many the same parties, but to a lesser extent, according to Outlook Newspapers.

Burbank City Councilwoman Sharon Springer said that the bills favor investors who can afford new development rather than local residents.

“Sadly, it’s legislation that’s out of touch with the real world,” she said. “It lacks understanding for the hopes, aspirations and needs of all residents, families and workers of various economic means. … It ignores the gaps in our society that the pandemic has exposed and blocks the fair and just evolution of housing and economic opportunity for all Burbankers and Californians.”

Earlier, both State Bills 9 and 10 passed the Legislature with high support, although many Assembly members abstained from voting.

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