New Bill Package Aims to Address Housing Crisis

Single-family homes make up a majority of housing in San Dimas. There is some speculation about whether housing bills such as SB 9 could eliminate single-family housing. Photo: Rommel Alcantara

By Maydeen Merino

On Dec. 16, 2020, Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced “Building Opportunities for All Senate Housing Package,” a package of bills meant to overcome the housing crisis California has endured for years. 

The package includes six bills focused on housing solutions and is supported by Senators Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). 

Proponents of the package say it empowers homeowners who want to help solve the crisis. The proposed legislation provides more land-use tools and flexibility to meet local governments’ and community partners’ needs and streamlines procedural hurdles.

One of the six bills is Senate Bill 9, proposed legislation that promotes small-scale neighborhood residential development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in residential areas, according to the “Building Opportunities for All Senate Housing Package.” 

SB 9 explains that the California Planning and Zoning Law allows for the creation of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are smaller, independent residential dwelling units located on the same lot as a stand-alone single-family home.

On Jan. 14, 2020, the San Dimas City Council passed a municipal code text amendment easing ADU regulations, an act required by the state to help deal with the housing crisis.

“California was in the throes of a housing crisis long before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic has now intensified the need for housing affordability, access, and opportunity,” Atkins said in a press release on Dec. 16, 2020.

SB 9 was introduced at the start of the 2021 legislative session on Dec. 7, 2020, and is essentially the same as SB 1120, a bill that failed during the 2020 session.

In February 2020, Atkins originally introduced SB 1120 to help alleviate California’s ongoing housing crisis. 

Despite SB 1120 passing through both houses, the California Assembly did not pass the bill in time to meet the deadline.

Opponents of SB 1120 believed a lack of mandated affordability would result in more high-end housing in the state. They also claimed the bill stifled local government control. 

San Dimas Mayor Emmett Badar sent a letter on behalf of the city to Atkins stating his disapproval of the original bill on Aug. 27, 2020. 

“SB 1120 imposes no requirement to build affordable units and continues a one-size-fits-all approach to the housing crisis by eroding local control and the ability of residents to plan for and shape the future of their community,” Badar said in his letter.

SB 1120 affected single-family parcels by making it easier for a homeowner to build a duplex or subdivide an existing lot.

There was some speculation about whether or not SB 1120 would help cities such as San Dimas. 

Henry Noh, director of community development for the city of San Dimas, believed the bill could have eliminated conventional single-family homes. 

“This [bill] has the potential to do away with conventional single-family suburban neighborhoods, where it’s going to significantly increase the density in our cities,” Noh said. 

“The bad thing is they’re not talking about affordability. This [bill] doesn’t include any affordability at this point. Someone can still rent it out for market rate, and the market rate right now is pretty high for both rent and sale properties.”

In 2020, the average home price in San Dimas was $683,011, with a predicted increase of 8.5% increase by this year, according to Zillow

Additionally, the state has a limited number of affordable housing units, making it difficult for Californians to find affordable housing, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office

The “Building Opportunities for All Senate Housing Package” will be up for debate throughout the legislative year at a time when Californians need access to affordable housing more than ever.

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