California lawmakers introduced several bills this year that would rezone empty strip malls and big box stores across the state to allow for new housing development without undergoing lengthy and costly local approvals.
Two are sailing through the Legislature. The other died early on. A key difference? The successful bills had the support of arguably the most powerful entity in the Capitol on housing issues, the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The other faced its vehement opposition.
The dealbreaker for the unions? If a bill did not require a “skilled and trained workforce,” which means that at least a third of the workers who can build housing on rezoned land must be graduates of apprenticeship programs.
“We believe in prevailing wages. So the question is not about wages,” said Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. “It’s about which workers are eligible to work on jobs.”
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