California 2020 Housing Legislation, Part 2: Relief and Recovery

April 16, 2020

Earlier in the year, California state assembly members and state senators introduced several dozen bills to deal with California’s high cost of housing.

That was before the virus and shelter in place. In the last few weeks, elected officials and their staff have been busy with constituent services and dealing with the crisis. Now, as committee meetings start up again, the priorities have changed.

First, there is less time. Bills that aren’t time sensitive are likely to be postponed to next year. There’s also less money. With businesses closed, tax revenue is down, and the state budget faces a huge hole.

RELIEF

The governor and the courts have issued a series of orders to temporarily stop evictions. However, even if rent isn’t due now, it still leaves a time bomb that will hit tenants once the emergency is over.

On April 8, 2020, Phil Ting’s Assembly Bill 828 was gut-and-amended into a housing relief bill. If passed, it has four main parts that would take effect immediately and last until 15 days after the end of the state of emergency.
- Pause on foreclosures
- Pause on auctions due to unpaid property tax
- Pause on evictions
- Tenants can request the court to reduce their rent by 25%, if they had a decrease in income due to the virus or shutdown. A payment plan can also be set up, going up until March 2021.

As of April 16, the California Apartment Association (landlord lobby group) opposes AB828. In support so far is California YIMBY. Other groups are still reviewing it.

One of the remaining tenant concerns is that for some people, a 25% reduction is not enough. Oakland passed a stronger local ordinance, where tenants still owe back rent, but cannot be evicted for it.

A similar bill, SB939, offers similar protections for businesses and nonprofits.

There are also several already-introduced bills that can offer tenants and homeowners additional protections.

Tenant Protections

AB-3077 Residential real property: tenancy: termination: withdrawal of accommodations. (Santiago)

Bans the use of the Ellis Act by a landlord who wants to “go out of business” and evict all tenants in a building to sell the building as a Tenancy in Common to homeowners.

SB-1190 Tenancy: termination: victims of crime. (Durazo)

Would allow tenants to terminate a lease if they or an immediate family or household member are a victim of violent crime or are crime causing emotional injury and the threat of physical injury. A high priority as shelter-in-place has increased domestic violence.

AB-3352 Hiring of real property: tenant remedies. (Friedman)

If a landlord fails to maintain a home, current law allows tenants to fix it or hire someone to fix it, and then deduct the cost from rent, as long as 30 days notice is given, and the cost isn’t more than 1 month’s rent. AB3352 would reduce the required notice to 15 days and up the max cost to 2 months’ rent.

AB-2272 Real Property: Eviction Defense. (Gabriel, Chiu)

This bill would create a statewide program for eviction defense. Some cities, such as San Francisco, already have local programs. Such programs guarantee tenants facing eviction a right to a lawyer, which evens the playing field when they face a landlord in court.

Homeowner Protections

AB-2463 Enforcement of money judgments: execution: homestead. (Wicks)

Currently, if a homeowner owes money and is unable to pay, the lender can force a sale of their home to pay the debt. AB2463 would ban lenders of unsecured consumer debt (such as medical debt, credit card debt, etc) from forcing a sale of someone’s home.

Limiting Rent Increases and Fees

AB-2774 Hiring of real property: tenants: late fees. (Jones-Sawyer)

Limits late fees for rent to $50.

Rental Affordability Act (Ballot Measure / Proposition)

This ballot measure, if passed, would reform Costa-Hawkins and allow cities to expand rent control to newer buildings at least 15 years old, detached houses, and condos. Cities would also be allowed to implement vacancy control, limiting rent increases when a unit becomes vacant to 15% every 3 years. Homes owned by individuals who only own 1 or 2 homes would be exempt from the RAA.
I have a separate detailed summary of the Rental Affordability Act here.

AB-2763 Housing: relocation assistance. (Bloom)

AB2763 gives tenants more protections when a regular apartment building is converted into an income-restricted affordable housing. Landlords would not be able to force existing tenants to move unless comparable replacement housing is provided. AB2763 would also consider raising rents by more than 5% to count as displacement.

Putting Vacant Homes to Use

SB-1079 Residential property warehousing. (Skinner)

Allows cities to use eminent domain to buy corporate owned housing that has been vacant for more than 90 days, for use as affordable housing. Also would require a corporation that has owned housing that has been vacant for more than 90 days to offer the building first to community land trusts, tenant associations, and cities, prior to selling it on the open market. Cities would also be able to fine a corporation for leaving housing vacant for more than 90 days.

Mobile Homes

SB-999 Mobilehome park residencies: rent control: exemption. (Umberg)

Current state law exempts mobile home residents with leases of more than 12 months from being protected by local rent control laws. SB999 closes this loophole.

AB-2586 Shelter crisis: safe parking programs. (Berman)

Encourages cities to create Safe Parking Programs for people to live in their vehicles, by limiting liability and also allowing such programs to be operated as a temporary parking lot, instead of a permanent mobile home park.

AB-2690 Mobilehome parks: local ordinances: rent stabilization ordinances. (Low)

Would require all cities and counties to pass rent stabilization / rent control for mobile home parks by Jan 1, 2023, or justify why one isn’t necessary (for example, if city doesn’t have any mobile home parks).

AB-2895 Mobilehome parks: rent caps. (Quirk-Silva)

Would limit rent increases at mobile home parks to 5% plus inflation each year, with a hard cap of 10%. This is the same rent cap that was passed for regular housing in last year’s AB1482, which didn’t include mobile homes.

To summarize how SB999, AB2895,and AB2690 go together:
- SB999 allows cities to extend rent control to mobile homes.
- AB2690 requires cities to extend rent control to mobile homes by 1/1/2023.
- AB2895 provides a limited rent cap to all mobile homes statewide, even if a local law hasn’t been passed yet, and would take effect on 1/1/2021.

RECOVERY

The next step is getting people back to work. Construction is a time-honored way to stimulate the economy, and has the advantage of being able to start up much earlier than customer-facing retail and services can reopen.

Remodels and small buildings, which can break ground faster and don’t require as specialized a workforce, should be prioritized.

Repurposing Vacant Hotels and Commercial Buildings

AB-2580 Conversion of motels and hotels: streamlining. (Eggman)

Simplifies the process of turning a hotel, motel, or commercial building into long term housing.

SB-906 Housing: joint living and work quarters and occupied substandard buildings or units. (Skinner)

This bill makes it easier to legally use old industrial and commercial buildings into group housing, and creates a path for substandard buildings to be brought up to code.

AB-3107 Planning and zoning: general plan: housing development. (Bloom)

Currently, many cities have yuge areas of commercial zoning where office buildings and stores are OK, but housing isn’t. AB3107 would allow homes in these areas if 20% of them are affordable.

Dividing large lots and condos

AB-2666 Starter Home Revitalization Act of 2020. (Boerner Horvath)

Allows land that is zoned for more than one home to be subdivided into small lots that can be sold separately. Size of homes would be limited to 1,200 square feet.

AB-2470 Splitting multifamily dwelling units: streamlined ministerial approval. (Kamlager)

Allows large apartments and condos to be more easily divided into smaller homes. Streamlines the approval process, and waives parking requirements, density limits, and minimum unit sizes.

Encouraging Small Construction Projects

SB-902 Planning and zoning: neighborhood multifamily project: use by right: density. (Wiener)

Allows the following statewide, except in very high fire hazard zones.
In unincorporated areas and cities under 10,000 people: Two homes per lot.
In cities of 10,000–50,000 people: Three homes per lot.
In cities of over 50,000 people: Four homes per lot.
Also makes it easier for cities to rezone land for up to 10 homes per lot, if near transit, near jobs, or on a urban infill site.

AB-3153 Parking and zoning: parking credits. (Robert Rivas)

Allows bike parking and carshare spaces to count towards parking requirements. Two bike spaces would count as one car space. Each carshare space would count as two regular car spaces. Up to 30% of the parking requirement could be met with bike spaces, and an additional 30% with carshare spaces.

SB-1085 Density Bonus Law: qualifications for incentives or concessions: student housing for lower income students: moderate-income persons and families: local government constraints. (Skinner)

Currently, a project needs to have at least 5 homes before it can use the Density Bonus. SB1085 eliminates this requirement, allowing small buildings such as duplexes get an extra unit in exchange for some affordable housing. It also creates more options for moderate income housing (where rents are affordable to people making 80–120% of area median income) and student housing to use the bonus.

AB-2345 Planning and zoning: density bonuses: affordable housing. (Gonzalez)

Currently, the maximum density bonus for a mixed income development is 35%, which can be achieved if a building is 20% low income housing. AB2345 increases the bonus scale, up to 50% for buildings that are 33% low income housing. This enables 2 and 3 unit buildings to use the bonus.

Speeding up the Permit Approval Process

AB-3156 Coastal resources: coastal development permits: affordable housing. (Robert Rivas)

Projects near the coast in California are required to get approval from the California Coastal Commission. AB3156 would speed up the approval process for projects containing affordable housing.

SB-1410 Housing: local development decisions: appeals. (Lena Gonzalez)

Establishes a Housing Accountability Committee within the Housing and Community Development Department. Projects denied by a city and projects where the city adds requirements that make it infeasible could be appealed to the HAC, which would have the power to override the local government and approve the project.

AB-3155 Subdivision Map Act: small lot subdivisions. (Robert Rivas)

Allows land zoned for more than one home to be divided into small lots, with half the homes on those lots reserved for first-time homebuyers for 90 days. Also allows apartment buildings with up to 10 homes to be approved by city planning staff instead of having to go through public hearings in front of a planning commission or city council.

Accessory Dwelling Unit bills

These bills make it easier to build ADUs — also known as backyard cottages, casitas, in-law apartments, granny flats, and basement apartments.

AB-69 Land use: accessory dwelling units. (Ting, Quirk-Silva)

Would create a California Small Home Building Code, making it cheaper to build houses and cottages that are under 800 square feet (about the size of a modest two-bedroom house).

SB-592 Housing development: Housing Accountability Act: permit streamlining. (Wiener)

The Housing Accountability Act (HAA) is existing law that requires cities to approve new housing that meets zoning standards. SB-592 would clarify that the HAA also applies to adding new ADUs to a property.

SB-773 Land use: accessory dwelling units. (Skinner) and AB-953 Land use: accessory dwelling units. (Ting, Bloom)

A pair of “cleanup bills” that make minor edits to clarify the ADU bills passed in 2019.

AB-2044 Building standards: photovoltaic requirements: accessory dwelling units. (Voepel)

Existing law requires most new buildings in California to have solar panels. However, ADUs are often single-story buildings right next to and in the shadow of taller buildings, and even ones that have direct sun have roofs too small to hold a cost-effective system. AB2044 would exempt ADUs from the solar requirement.

Artist and Designer in Berkeley, California