Senator Wiener Reintroduces Housing Legislation to Allow Religious Institutions and Nonprofits Colleges to Build Affordable Housing on Their Land

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Sacramento – Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 1336 to allow faith institutions (such as churches, synagogues, and mosques) along with nonprofit colleges to build affordable housing on their property by right, even if local zoning prevents this housing. The legislation only applies to 100% affordable housing for low income residents. This legislation was introduced as SB 899 in 2020, passed the Senate 39-0 and the Assembly Housing Committee unanimously.

Many faith and charitable institutions have excess property – for example, overly large parking lots – on which they can build affordable housing. Faith communities have, for a long time, partnered with nonprofit housing developers to build affordable housing on their land. However, current zoning laws in many cities prohibit the building of multifamily apartment buildings, or any housing at all, on this property. Moreover, getting this land rezoned and 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.

Any organization building this type of streamlined affordable housing must maintain the affordability of these homes for a minimum of 55 years for rental properties and 45 years for properties that can be owned. Additionally, density and height restrictions will align with what is deemed appropriate for affordable housing by housing element law.

California is currently facing a severe housing crisis spurred by a shortage of 3.5 million homes. This shortage drives up housing costs, making California the most expensive state in which to rent or buy a home. 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. 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.

SB 899 is co-sponsored by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) and the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing (SCANPH).

“Our churches, mosques and synagogues want to do everything they can to help our communities,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “Many of them have land that they can use for affordable housing, but when they try to build these projects, they face years of delays and arbitrary zoning restrictions. SB 1336 will allow our faith institutions to support low income residents, and will help alleviate California’s housing crisis.”

“SCANPH has worked closely with many faith-based institutions and non-profits in our region on this concept in recent years,” said Jackson Loop, Policy Coordinator for Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing. “These organizations are existing community anchors that are ready to contribute to the effort to abate our state’s housing crisis. SB 1336 is a simple solution which will help them do just that by making it easier to build new affordable housing on faith-based institution’s lands, many of which are in high-resource neighborhoods.”

“Faith-based organizations have long served as community anchors, living out their faith by supporting their neighbors,” said Amie Fishman, Executive Director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH). “Homes are the foundation of any thriving community, and we’re proud to partner with Senator Wiener to advance this bill to make it easier for churches, mosques, synagogues, and other faith-based institutions to build stable, affordable homes for their communities.”