Gov. Brown signs suite of housing bills

Gov. Jerry Brown and other state lawmakers gathered in San Francisco Friday to take aim at alleviating the state’s housing crisis.

At about 1 p.m. Brown signed 15 housing-related bills into law at the Hunters View affordable housing complex at 1101 Fairfax Ave. where housing advocates and lawmakers gathered to celebrate.

Some blame the state’s housing problems on, among other things, strict regulations and Brown acknowledged that in his statements Friday:

“Too many goods create a bad.”

To achieve goals such as safety, Brown said:

“We get a lot of rules. Now we need to streamline.”

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, whose district includes Oakland and communities in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and who wrote two of the bills, said at least some of the bills signed will do just that:

“What we have is a crisis in supply.”

According to Skinner, economists are in favor of the package of laws, though she like others acknowledged that more needs to be done.

She said the package only moves California “in the right direction.” Housing advocates celebrated.

Lisa Hershey, executive director of Housing California, a group that advocates for affordable housing from the state Capitol, said:

“We look forward to building on this momentum.”

Hershey cited what a difference housing made in the life of a mother who has since gone to college and also convinced a state lawmaker that something needed to be done about housing in California.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf couldn’t agree more. Schaaf said:

“Welcome to the Bay Area, ground zero of the California housing affordability crisis.”

She asked lawmakers not to sit on their laurels now that they have addressed housing but to take action on housing in the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 3:

“We have more work to do.”

The package of bills aims to increase the supply of housing and make it more affordable by making investments, reducing regulations, boosting construction and strengthening existing housing laws, according to the governor’s office.

The bills written by Skinner are two examples.

Senate Bill 167 requires a city council to approve housing projects if they meet existing zoning and land use requirements.

She attributed past denials of projects to neighbors who don’t want to see new housing in their neighborhoods.

Senate Bill 166 requires local governments to designate a new site for housing if for example commercial development displaces what was housing.

That new housing must have the same affordability level as what was lost.

Skinner’s office said that California builders would need to construct 180,000 homes a year to keep up with the demand.

Bay Area Council spokesman Rufus Jeffris said that since the state has a deficit of about 2 million units the package of bills is just a good first step:

“This is not likely to make a huge dent in the housing shortage.”