IMPORTANT: It's a Serious Matter of Life

California could allow churches and colleges to build affordable housing

A California bill would expand the options of places to build affordable housing.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 1336, which is awaiting its next vote after passing the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee last week.

Now, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee will hear the bill. His bill would allow faith institutions (such as churches, synagogues, and mosques) along with nonprofit colleges to build affordable housing on their property by right. That means they could build it even if local zoning prevents this type of housing.

This legislation applies only to 100% affordable housing units. However, up to 20% of units can go to “moderate income residents” as long as the price is below market rate, according to a press release from Wiener’s office.

“California is facing a massive housing affordability crisis, and that impacts low-income people the most,” Wiener said. “We need to make it easier and faster to build affordable housing. Letting our churches, synagogues, and mosques build this housing on their excess land is a great way to get more affordable housing in the pipeline and give our faith institutions another way to give back to their communities. It’s time to say YIGBY: yes in God’s backyard.”

Wiener’s office said that many faith institutions and nonprofit colleges have “excess property,” including parking lots, where they can build housing units.

“Faith communities have, for a long time, partnered with nonprofit housing developers to build affordable housing on their land,” Wiener’s office wrote. “However, current zoning laws in many cities prohibit the building of multifamily apartment buildings, or any housing at all, on this property. Moreover, getting a project through the approval process can be difficult or impossible, and incredibly expensive.

“SB 1336 ensures that churches, faith institutions, and nonprofit colleges will be able to build affordable housing on their land without having to go through an expensive and difficult rezoning and discretionary approval process.”

Under this proposal, organizations building streamlined, affordable housing must maintain their home’s affordability for at least 55 years for rental properties and 45 years for properties that can be owned.

The Senator’s office says California has a housing shortage of 3.5 million homes. It says that this drives up housing costs and makes California an unaffordable place to live.

“Young families are leaving California in search of cheaper housing, kids can’t afford to live where they grew up, and evictions and displacement are spiking,” Wiener’s office said in a press release. “Our homelessness crisis is worsening, and people are sleeping on their streets and in their cars in higher and higher numbers.

“SB 1336 will allow churches and other nonprofit colleges to help alleviate this crisis by building affordable housing on their own property. These institutions already serve deeply important and central roles in our communities, and they should be able to provide housing to those who need it.”

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