A Guide to Housing Laws and Regulations in California: What You Need to Know

California is one of the most populous and diverse states in the United States, with a housing market that reflects its size and complexity. Whether you are a renter, a homeowner, a landlord, or a developer, you need to be aware of the various laws and regulations that govern housing in California. In this article, we will provide an overview of some of the most important and recent housing laws and regulations in California, and how they may affect you.

Streamlining: Making it Easier to Build More Housing

One of the biggest challenges facing California is the shortage of affordable and adequate housing for its residents. To address this issue, the state legislature has enacted several laws that aim to streamline the approval process for housing projects, especially those that include affordable units, and reduce the barriers and delays caused by local zoning rules, environmental reviews, and lawsuits.

Some of the most significant streamlining laws that took effect in 2023 or will take effect in 2024 are:

AB 2011

This law provides a ministerial, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)-exempt approval pathway for qualifying multifamily projects on commercially zoned land that pay prevailing wages and meet specified affordable housing targets. This means that local agencies cannot deny or impose discretionary conditions on these projects, and they are not subject to CEQA lawsuits. The law also requires local agencies to adopt objective design standards for these projects by July 1, 2024, and to report annually on the number and status of these projects.

SB 4

This law allows by-right approval for affordable housing projects on land owned by religious organizations and higher education institutions, as long as they meet certain criteria, such as providing at least 40% of the units for low-income households, complying with local height and setback standards, and paying prevailing wages. By-right approval means that local agencies must approve these projects without requiring a conditional use permit, variance, or other discretionary approval, and they are not subject to CEQA review or litigation.

SB 684

This law allows ministerial approval of up to 10-unit housing projects on small sites that are zoned for residential use and are located in urbanized areas, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Ministerial approval means that local agencies must approve these projects based on objective and quantifiable standards, without requiring any discretionary review or public hearing, and they are not subject to CEQA review or litigation. The law also requires local agencies to adopt objective design standards for these projects by July 1, 2024, and to report annually on the number and status of these projects.

SB 9

This law allows the creation of up to four housing units on a single-family lot, by permitting the subdivision of the lot into two equal-sized parcels and the construction of a duplex or an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on each parcel. The law also prohibits local agencies from imposing certain restrictions on these projects, such as lot size, parking, or owner-occupancy requirements, and from requiring any discretionary approval, public hearing, or CEQA review. The law also provides exemptions for certain areas, such as historic districts, coastal zones, or high fire hazard zones, and for certain situations, such as deed-restricted affordable housing, rent-controlled units, or recent demolitions.

SB 10

This law allows local governments to adopt an ordinance that authorizes the construction of up to 10-unit housing projects on parcels that are located in transit-rich or urban infill areas, and that are zoned for residential use or mixed use with residential units. The law also exempts these projects from CEQA review and litigation, and from any inconsistent local zoning rules, such as density, height, or floor area ratio limits. The law also requires local governments to hold at least one public hearing before adopting such an ordinance, and to consider the potential impacts on affordable housing, displacement, and infrastructure.

These streamlining laws are intended to increase the supply and diversity of housing in California, by making it easier and faster to build more housing units, especially in areas that are close to jobs, services, and transit. However, they also raise some concerns and challenges, such as the potential loss of local control, the adequacy of infrastructure and public services, the protection of environmental and historical resources, and the preservation of neighborhood character and quality of life. Therefore, it is important for all stakeholders to be informed and engaged in the implementation and evaluation of these laws, and to seek a balance between the state and local interests, and between the housing needs and the community values.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top