A Quick Overview of California’s New Housing Laws

California’s high housing costs are well known to most people, no matter where they live. State housing prices have climbed to more than $800,000, nearly double what they are nationwide. There are four places in our country where it’s particularly difficult to afford a mortgage among the 50 largest cities. In California, 50 percent of homeless Americans live.

We can prevent our housing crisis by building more homes in accordance with supply and demand laws. As a result, development has been stalled for decades as suburban homeowners have resisted. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two housing bills on Thursday that will lead to higher-density neighborhoods.

Senate Bills 9 and 10 have seen a great deal of opposition, but neither is all that revolutionary, says California journalist Conor Dougherty. In the past four years, the California housing package has passed. With these two measures, the housing market has experienced its biggest shift in 50 years.

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What The New Laws Will Do

In most neighborhoods in this state, including those where apartments have been banned for a long time, Senate Bill 9 allows duplexes to be built. A major goal of S.B. 10 is to reduce environmental regulations governing multi-family housing and make it easier for municipalities to add high-density development.

Homeowners and local government groups have been angered by the former proposal, dubbed “the beginning of the end for homeownership in California.” Single-family zoning, which states there can only be one house per plot of land, is crucial to the typical California suburb with rows of houses with yards and fences. 

The legislation allows up to four units to be created from single-family properties. The zoning of single-family houses will essentially end. However, the change is modest. In this legislation, property owners can have an additional three units built on their land. S B 9 would probably result in 714,000 new homes across California over the next several years, according to an analysis by Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.

What Previous Housing Laws Did

While S.B.9 may be symbolically significant, it may not have the same impact as changes in policy already in place, according to Conor. Over the past four years, the state legislature has passed numerous housing reforms to increase housing production. California’s 2017 legislation to relax laws on backyard homes, also known as “granny flats” and “in-law apartments,” was perhaps the most significant. After that, the rules further loosen.

So even before S.B. 9 became law, California homes with one main house and one guest house could have two units. In the meantime, “people are going to complain that S.B. 9 is ruining their neighborhoods, even though their complaints have been quiet for several years,” said Conor.

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