Santiago Moves to Relieve Californians from Unbearably Expensive Housing

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Sacramento, CA – It’s no secret that California’s housing needs have far outpaced existing stock as well as planned development and construction, which has only worsened the state’s affordability and homelessness crises. Just last month, housing officials highlighted the need for 1.3 million units in Southern California alone over the next ten years; three times the previously proposed number.

That’s why Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) has introduced legislation this week to incentivize and streamline the development of affordable housing in local governments that have failed to meet their state-mandated housing production planning goals. Upon announcing AB 1251 he said:

“We’re caught in this deadly hamster wheel,” Santiago said, “where we mandate the construction of more and more affordable housing, but we keep falling behind. Rents are increasing at a runaway pace. It's time that localities do their fair share by approving and building more affordable housing. AB 1251 gives us the tools we need to enforce existing law, and get to work building affordable homes for Californians across the state.”

Existing law requires the legislative bodies of every California county and city to identify parcels that are available and “appropriate” for residential development, including sites that are not currently zoned for residential development, but can be redeveloped and/or rezoned for residential use.  If the city or county are not meeting their affordable housing production goals, they then have three years to re-zone enough land to do so. Many local governments have already made plans to rezone, but often struggle to follow through, creating a dearth of affordable housing.

Under AB 1251 if local governments fail to re-zone within a year of their three-year deadline, housing developments in which at least 40% of the units are affordable to lower income Californians would be a use “by right” where multifamily, mixed-use, and commercial zoning are permitted. These projects would be subject only to ministerial review, streamlining the approval process and allowing localities to break ground on new units as soon as possible.

The bill is currently in the Senate.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago is the Chair of the Assembly’s Communications and Conveyance Committee, and a member of both the Assembly Public Safety Committee and the California Latino Legislative Caucus. He represents the 53rd District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Vernon.