A Closer Look at the Avalanche of New California Housing Production Laws
by Chelsea Maclean*
California legislators unleashed an avalanche of more than 130 bills last year, responding to the statewide housing crisis. Housing advocates have argued, backed by staggering statistics, that California’s local land use approval process has slowed housing production and made it more expensive.1 After vetoing housing bills in the past, Gov. Jerry Brown approved 15 housing bills for the first time in his tenure on September 29, 2017.2 Some of these laws streamline entitlement processing by reducing local agencies’ discretionary approval rights. These laws provide political "cover" to decision-makers in development-friendly jurisdictions looking to approve projects in the face of vocal community opposition. They also increase the ability to enforce development rights in less friendly jurisdictions where decision-makers oppose new development. More generally, other laws promote the statewide goal to encourage housing production now that the lack of housing supply is reaching emergency levels.
Each new law is summarized below, grouped into five categories: (I) Enforceability, (II) Streamlining and Other Incentives, (III) Housing Element Law Amendments, (IV) Funding and (V) Other.