California’s housing affordability crunch ranks at the top of all serious public policy and business competitiveness agendas. The state’s median home price set a new record in March 2022 at $849,080, which is out of reach for most—only 25% of Californians can afford a median priced home, compared to 50% nationally. Here in Silicon Valley, the median home price in Santa Clara County was a whopping $1.6 million in March 2022, up nearly 20% from the previous year, according to Redfin.
While there are many facets to this problem, if you ask any California home builder, permitting can be a major hurdle and has brought many visionary developments to an acrimonious halt. California’s notorious local regulations and processes have been enough to keep many construction firms out of the state altogether. With an estimated shortage of 3 million units, the homes that finally do get built are in such demand that prices have risen out of reach for the average wage earner.
As a leader in innovative policy solutions, SVLG is taking steps to address this challenge. In partnership with the Housing Action Coalition, SVLG has co-sponsored a new bill that seeks to speed up housing production by addressing inefficiencies in the permitting process. Authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) and Assemblymember Tim Grayson (D-Concord), AB 2234 will ensure that jurisdictions clarify local procedures, which can often be next to impossible to decipher.
“California needs a standardized process to review the array of post-entitlement building permits in order to address the issue of untimely local approval processes,” said Voleck Taing, VP of Government Relations at SVLG.
The bill requires the permit application process to be moved online by 2024, with the option to submit applications by email until a full online option is available. Jurisdictions would be required to create detailed lists of permit requirements, and would not be able to add requirements for applications in progress. They would have to provide a set of example permit applications for the most common types of housing developments, and it would all be required to be posted on their website.
Surprised that building departments aren’t doing this already?
Unfortunately, the current process in most jurisdictions is enigmatic at best. In this article on AB 2234 by Dustin Gardiner in the San Francisco Chronicle, permitting is compared by a nonprofit housing developer to a “self-inflicted wound” that can cause new affordable housing projects to take a decade to complete. AB 2234 is asking for a reasonable, transparent process so that good projects don’t have years needlessly added to their timelines.
AB 2234 passed the State Assembly Local Government Committee with a vote of 7-0 on April 20 with the help of testimony by Vince Rocha, SVLG’s Vice President of Housing & Community Development, Kate Conley, Principal at member company Architects FORA, and Corey Smith, Deputy Director at The Housing Action Coalition. It has been set to be heard in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 27.
“This bill has received unanimous support so far because legislators understand AB 2234 is solving for the nuts and bolts challenges to building more housing in California,” said Rocha.
The next step for the bill is a vote by the full Assembly prior to moving to the State Senate policy committees.