2021 California Housing Legislation Highlights

Click to enlarge for the original list of bills back in April 2021

Wildfires and Earthquakes

After a couple years of huge wildfires, change is on the way. The strategy combines insurance coverage, retrofitting buildings to be less flammable, and shifting development away from hazardous areas.

Coastal Areas

We also have a couple bills this year about coastal area. One encourages homes, especially for low income people, or near transit. The other limits it where there’s a risk of sea level rise or other climate change risk.


With the shift from cinderblock-and-stucco retail to online shopping, many of this year’s zoning bills are about housing in commercial zones. There are also bills about golf courses, hotels, transit, and parking.

Accessory Dwelling Units

Accessory Dwelling Units (backyard cottages and in-law flats) are a booming business in California. This year’s bills would add some additional options and also provide a loan fund.

Lot Division

Currently, many cities requires lots of 4,000 square feet or more, even if someone only wants 1,000 square feet of house. Two bills are proposed to allow more small-lot homes.


A few bills this year are about 10-plexes. Why 10? Depending on unit and lot size, 10 homes is a number that can easily fit on most residential lots that currently have a house.

Skilled and Trained (Union) Labor

Two bills to give incentives for contractors to use union workers.

Faster Approvals

A couple of bills about speeding up the project approval process — and one to slow them down on brownfields with hazardous materials.

Reducing Permit Fees

There’s a legit reason for some fees — cities do need to spend money on more roads, parks, schools, etc. But the wide range of fees from city to city suggests that many are arbitrarily large. These bills reduce and/or make the fees more fair.

General Plan Housing Elements

Every 8 years, California requires cities to identify sites and rezone land for housing, as part of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process. Most of the state is in the middle of that process this year.


In addition to systematic discrimination caused by outdated zoning, there’s also plain old in-your-face discrimination. Some bills this year seek to reduce that.

Youth Housing

A large part of California’s homeless population are people who age out of foster care and LGBTQ youth kicked out of their homes. There are bills this year to fund housing specifically for this group, as well one that provides an option for caregivers in senior housing.

Tenant Protections

While the big tenant protection bill of 2021 has been around extending the COVID state of emergency, there are also a few bills to make permanent changes.


Several bills around homelessness this year, some improve the quality of shelters, especially for those with pets. Others reduce discrimination, others work on creating a plan to reduce homelessness.

Ballot Measures

A couple of housing bonds, as well as state ballot measures that affect local ballot measures. These would eventually require voter approval after the Legislature approves it.

Rural Housing

The housing crisis isn’t just in cities. Farmworkers also face a shortage of housing, leading to overcrowding and high percentages of income spent on rent.


There are 3 bills about statewide taxes to fund housing, and two that give local governments more options.

Data and Reports

A few bills for the state to collect data on housing

Public Land

The cancellation of I-710 between Alhambra and Pasadena a few years ago left Caltrans as the owner of many buildings that were previously planned to be demolished for the freeway. Recent occupations by activists have created interest in turning these into affordable housing.


Some cities such as Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose now require new buildings to use electricity rather than natural gas for cooking and heating. 3 new bills seek to expand electrification/decarbonization statewide, while others are about electric car charging.

Preserving Affordable Housing

This has two parts to it. One of them is converting older private housing into affordable housing with income and rent limits. The other is extending the rent limits on buildings where affordability agreements are about to expire.


California has many state agencies that allocate state money for affordable housing. These bills would consolidate some and set some priorities.

Affordable Housing

These include bills about inclusionary income/rent restricted units in private developments, mixed income social housing, affordable housing in HOA communities, and local preference on waitlists.

Small Scale Affordable Housing

Re-Entry Housing

California has been working on reducing the prison population. However, many released prisoners end up homeless, as they don’t have a place to return to. Two bills seek to fix this problem.

School Employee Housing

This is about housing built by school districts for teachers and other staff.

Student Housing

California is about to be hit by the worst student housing crisis in history as students return to college towns and find that most apartments have already been rented to other tenants. We’re going to need lots of new student housing, fast.

PDFs and Posters

11x17 PDF
April 6, 2021: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ujuv7716vafwwlm/CA-housing-bills-20210406.pdf?dl=0



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Alfred Twu

Alfred Twu

Artist and Designer in Berkeley, California