2023 Legislative Session: A Turning Point for Housing Solutions

Abram speaking at SB 4 rally
SF Chronicle: Why Churches Could Become California’s Most Important Affordable Housing Developers
September 21, 2023
SB 4 rally with poster
The Christian Post: New California law expedites process for building low-income housing on church propertiesThe Christian Post:
October 17, 2023
ACA 1 supporters

Unlocking Opportunity and Affordable Housing Solutions

2023 was a year for the record books, as a turning point for affordable housing solutions in the state of California. As Ben Christopher at CalMatters wrote, “with the end of the legislative session last week, California is now on the verge of laying down a welcome mat for most major affordable housing projects across the state.”

Poster by Jorge Losoya
“Bridging and Belonging” by Jorge Losoya

This year, we passed many (many!) legislative bills that will work to move our region and state forward in advancing stable, affordable, and equitable homes for all our community members, no matter their race or income. But if there’s one unifying theme across them all, it’s this: We said ‘no’ to cynicism and pessimism, we said ‘no’ to the status quo, and we said ‘no’ to jeers of ‘it can’t be done.’

NPH’s priority bills shared the common thread of digging deep to remove barriers and unlock opportunity that will meaningfully change the landscape of affordable housing at large. We did not resign ourselves to small adjustments and pilot programs; we set out to break down the obstacles that have been in our path, now allowing us to build from our proven, vetted solutions. From making it easier to build affordable housing to addressing outdated state rules that limit local communities’ ability to to invest in affordable housing and more, we set out with big ambitions, scaled to our communities’ urgency. And that ambition led to eight successful priority bills that will advance our goals and clear the way for affordable housing solutions to break ground.

We couldn’t be prouder of the progress we secured this year – with and for our community members, and in deep partnership with our members, partners, allies, and multi-sector supporters.

Image from Sac Bee on legislation
The Sacramento Bee covers final days at the Capitol
NPH Policy Director Abram Diaz picture top, middle

And while each of these bills still have one final threshold to cross, there’s no turning back from this turning point.

2023 Priority NPH Bills:

Making it Easier to Pass Local Affordable Housing Bonds

  • ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry) – It took 5 years of trying, but we finally advanced the State Constitutional Amendment to lower the voter threshold from 2/3 to 55% for affordable housing bond measures. Changing this outdated rule will give local communities the tools they need to invest in affordable housing, and the accountability to ensure it produces results. 

    We worked closely with the author’s office and our coalition of labor, local government, housing, and homeless partners to pass the measure through the legislature on the final day of session. This is a historic win that will elevate our long term campaign efforts.

    This initiative will undergo clean-up language and changes to maximize impact, so it will go back through the legislative process in the early part of the 2024 session, and then head to voters ballots likely in November 2024.

Making It Easier to Create More Affordable Homes

  • SB 4 (Wiener) – We started the YIGBY (Yes In God’s Back Yard) journey in 2020 and 4 sessions later the bill is on the way to the Governor for his anticipated signature! This bill opens over 171,000 potentially developable acres statewide owned by faith institutions or nonprofit colleges, which is nearly five times the size of the city of Oakland. Projects using SB 4 will have to build affordable housing and will have the land rezoned and streamlined for multifamily projects. SB 4 was a great reminder to “keep the faith for affordable housing solutions!”
SB 4 rally with poster
  • SB 423 (Wiener) – This measure extends the streamlining provisions of Senator Weiner’s SB 35 and allows fast tract development of affordable housing and reasonable labor standards for new housing development. It is estimated that over 18,000 units have been built in the Bay Area since the advent of SB35; this bill builds on that success.
  • AB 529 (Gabriel) – This measure will direct the California Housing and Community Development Department to reevaluate the building codes for the conversion of commercial buildings to residential. This should help all builders speed up their efforts to maximize adaptive reuse opportunities!

Strengthening Our Regional Approach

  • AB 1319 (Wicks) – NPH co-sponsored AB 1319 with Enterprise, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the Association of Bay Area Governments. This bill made key modifications to the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, to maximize the benefits that BAHFA can deliver for the needs of Bay Area residents facing rising housing costs, instability, and homelessness. As we lead up to our regional ballot campaign, these changes will ensure BAHFA is well positioned to be a game changer for our region.

Ensuring Public Lands Serve the Public Good

  • AB 480 (Ting) – Surplus Land Improvements Act – AB 480 would update the Surplus Land Act for the first time since 2019, when NPH was part of the coalition that established the modern SLA with AB 1486. This new bill brings new clarity to the way the SLA affects a jurisdiction’s leasing of public land and adds penalties for places that violate it.  It also would add a large site exemption to guarantee a minimum number of affordable housing units on large sites, like the Concord Naval Weapons Station and other large former military sites in the Bay Area.

Protecting Low-Income Homeowners

  • AB 572 (Haney) – This measure originated from our 2022 Fall Study Sessions, as a response to the member-identified issue of rapidly increasing HOA fees in affordable “Below Market Rate” ownership units. AB 572 caps some HOA fee increases for BMR units developed in 2025 and onwards at either the sum of 5% and the percent change in inflation or a flat 10%, whichever is less. We worked closely with Asm. Haney from San Francisco and the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation to pass this bill, a first of its kind in the country.

Looking Ahead 

2023 was a critical turning point in our work to advance affordable housing. We’ve broken down barriers and set our region and state on a path to deliver more affordable housing opportunities and options. Our successes this year are a powerful reminder of what’s possible when we dream big and come together to invest in transformative solutions.

Together, we’ve laid the groundwork for an even bigger strategy in 2024. Heading into next year, NPH is spearheading a holistic, three-pronged approach to tackle our region’s housing needs at the scale necessary to meaningfully advance housing equity and justice across the Bay Area.

In this pivotal moment we know our greatest obstacle isn’t any single policy or budget-appropriation, it’s the cynicism and pessimism that so many of our neighbors feel about housing and homelessness. We know that to achieve our strategy we must build more public support — and foster the political will — needed to advance transformative and concrete solutions at a scale we’ve never seen before. That’s why we’re setting out to replace despair with hope and a shared vision of a Bay Area where everyone has a place to call home, and where low-income communities and communities of color stay and thrive.

Winning these changes is going to take all of us. We can advance our vision, take bold steps for system change, and win major resources for affordable housing. We can show our community members that change is possible, and then mobilize them to make it so. Join us!