California limits zoning for single-family homes

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law allowing duplexes to be built on most properties with one house, a severe reduction in single-family zoning in a state struggling with some of the highest housing prices in the country.

The legislation, a goal long sought by proponents of greater housing construction, also makes it easier to split existing lots in half, potentially providing the option of building four houses where one was previously permitted.

The median price of homes in California rose 144% between 2000 and 2019 to reach $ 591,866, according to the California Association of Realtors. Considering housing costs, California has the highest poverty rate of any state, according to the Census Bureau.

Researchers and advocates have said inadequate new housing construction was a major reason for high prices and a driver of homelessness in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Mr Newsom has set a 2019 goal of building half a million new homes per year for seven years to erase the 3.5 million homes the state would need by 2025.

Over the past five years, the state has averaged 109,000 homes per year, and during the 2020 pandemic that number has fallen to 100,550, according to the Construction Industry Research Board, which tracks building permit data. .

“For too many Californians, the thought of owning a house, renting a house big enough for their family, or even just being able to live in the community where they work is a distant dream,” said Toni Atkins, Senator for the United States. ‘State. The San Diego Democrat who drafted the legislation said in a statement. “This law will help bridge the gap and make those dreams come true. “

The law contains provisions to prevent the displacement of tenants and to protect homes in historic neighborhoods and fire-prone areas.

Local officials in cities across California have opposed the legislation, saying it takes away too much local zoning control. Leaders from more than 260 cities this week signed a letter from the League of Cities of California urging Governor Newsom to veto the bill because “it does not guarantee the construction of affordable housing or stimulate the development of additional housing in a way that promotes local flexibility, decision-making and community contribution.

Affordable housing advocates have also criticized the legislation for not containing provisions requiring all new homes built to be affordable.

“How does this help people who are in desperate need of housing? It is not, ”said Susie Shannon, policy director for the advocacy group Housing is a human right.

California Governor Gavin Newsom addresses the press during a visit to Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, Calif. On Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

(Getty Images)

An analysis of the legislation released in July by the Terner Center for Housing Affordability at the University of California at Berkeley, found that 6.1 million of the state’s 7.5 million single-family lots would be eligible for duplex construction. or divisions under the new legislation. . Of those, 410,000 could potentially see more units built, according to the analysis. The rest face space limitations or would not be financially feasible.

The new law is part of a package of four bills signed by Newsom on Thursday intended to allow more housing to be built.

Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis previously placed limits on single-family zoning, and the federal infrastructure bill backed by President Biden is pushing local governments to take similar action.

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