Senator Roth’s Measure to Address California’s Housing Crisis Approved by Senate Committee

April 20, 2017

Senator Richard D. Roth’s (D-Riverside) measure to address the State’s housing crisis has been approved by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on a bipartisan vote of 6-0.

Senator Roth said: “Access to housing is a basic human need, and ensuring Californians have access to an affordable place to live is critical to every Californian’s quality of life. That’s why I am proud to have authored Senate Bill 540, which will incentivize and streamline housing construction to meet our state’s dire housing shortage. I thank the Committee for recognizing the critical need for this measure, and look forward to sending this measure to the Governor for his signature.”

Currently, housing construction projects are subject to individual environmental reviews even if they would be undertaken in the same underlying zone. This can result in costly project delays and serve as a disincentive to housing construction. SB 540, which is sponsored by the League of California Cities, allows for a single environmental review to be completed for all projects within specific areas identified by cities and counties as Workforce Housing Zones, streamlining the environmental review process and incentivizing housing construction in these zones. Extensive environmental reviews for these zones would be conducted at the front-end, providing developers with a clear picture of the conditions for development (including traffic mitigation measures, parking requirements, design review standards and environmental mitigation).

By some estimates, SB 540 would shave off one to two years off the development timeline, and would do so without compromising public health, local control or the rights of citizens to participate in local land use decisions. SB 540 strikes an important balance to preserve the protections afforded under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) while removing some of the barriers that currently limit housing construction.

Senator Roth continued: “California is home to one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation, with many Californians unable to afford to rent or own a home. SB 540 is a commonsense measure that will remove the barriers to housing construction in the areas most in need, helping ensure this crisis does not continue to grow and families do not continue to struggle.”

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