After handily surviving a recall election attempt last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a package of housing bills on September 16 intended to combat the state’s dire housing crisis. One of the biggest changes included is the (near) elimination of single-family-only zoning, and the option to build duplexes and quadplexes on those plots.
The signing of SB 8, SB 9, and S10 collectively streamlines the approvals process for building new housing as well as promotes development of denser projects along key transit corridors.
“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” said Newsom during the signing. “Making a meaningful impact on this crisis will take bold investments, strong collaboration across sectors and political courage from our leaders and communities to do the right thing and build housing for all. I thank Pro Tem Atkins and all the Legislature’s leaders on housing for their vision and partnership to keep California moving forward on this fundamental issue.”
SB 8 extends the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 five more years through 2030 (the act was originally slated to expire in 2025). In order to help lower the barrier to homeownership, the act limits fees on housing applications, limits the ability of local governments to downzone properties, and speeds up the approvals process.
SB 9, the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act, is the one that’s drawing the bulk of media attention (Curbed called it “a win against NIMBYs”). The HOME Act codifies at the state level what municipalities and cities have been enacting locally for some time, the ability to build duplexes and fourplexes on areas previously permanently zoned for single-family housing. Of course, historic structures and plots of land at risk from wildfires are exempt—there’s no sense in densifying a plot that could easily be wiped out, or irrevocably altering historic homes.
SB 10 is focused on already developed urban areas, creating a more streamlined process for upzoning parcels located near mass transit junctions and in areas of urban infill. Appropriate to the name, the bill is intended to spur development of complexes with up to 10 units and reduce CO2 emissions by encouraging public transportation use.
UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation estimated that SB 9 could apply to as many as 700,000 lots statewide; though, obviously not all 700,000 homeowners will divide up their properties. While the elimination of single-family-only zoning will likely help alleviate California’s housing crisis somewhat, the question of how many new units will actually get built is still unanswered.