The California state Senate today approved Sen. Nancy Skinner’s two housing bills, SB 8 and SB 290. SB 8 prevailed on a bipartisan, 30-2 vote, and SB 290 also garnered bipartisan support, passing 32-4. SB 8 and SB 290 are designed to address California’s housing shortage and spur the creation of more housing units, particularly for low-income and unsheltered Californians.
SB 8 is a follow-up to Sen. Skinner’s groundbreaking law, SB 330, also known as the Housing Crisis Act of 2019. SB 330, which went into effect in January 2020, has already jumpstarted housing production in California, even during the COVID-induced construction slowdown. But SB 330 is scheduled to expire in 2025. SB 8 would extend SB 330’s provisions until 2030 and would add clarifying language to streamline the creation of more housing of all types.
“The Housing Crisis Act was a success: Housing was getting built faster. But due to the pandemic, everything slowed down, so we need SB 8 to achieve the promise of the Housing Crisis Act, which is to make sure housing projects that meet existing rules don’t get bogged down by bureaucratic red tape,” said Sen. Skinner, D-Berkeley.
Since it took effect on Jan. 1, 2020, SB 330 has quickened the approval process of housing projects throughout California. Without it, numerous housing development proposals would likely still be facing years of hearings to gain approval. However, the full benefits of SB 330 have yet to be realized.
By extending the provisions of SB 330 until 2030, SB 8 will provide California with more time to recover from the pandemic and meet its housing production goals. SB 8 also clarifies language in SB 330 to further streamline the creation of housing and protect low-income tenants against displacement. SB 8 is also part of Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins’ housing package for 2021.
As for SB 290, it’s similar to the final version of a bill by Sen. Skinner, SB 1085, from last year that nearly won approval. SB 1085 garnered overwhelming support in the state Assembly, passing on a 67-3 vote. But the bill was one of several pieces of legislation that did not get a final vote in the Senate before the 2020 legislative session ended.
SB 290 improves the state’s density bonus law, which allows developers to increase the number of housing units in their developments if those units meet affordability standards. SB 290 makes it easier to build density bonus projects and enables the law to apply to student housing, which will result in additional affordable housing units for low-income students.
“California’s density bonus law is underutilized — less than one-half of local governments have approved projects that take advantage of the law’s benefits. That means not enough affordable housing units are being built,” Sen. Skinner added. “SB 290 will clarify and improve our density bonus law so affordable housing actually gets built.”
SB 8 and SB 290 now head to the state Assembly for consideration.
Sen. Nancy Skinner represents the 9th Senate District, is chair of the Senate Budget Committee and is vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.