Plan to increase housing construction statewide

In releasing a state spending plan for the next fiscal year, Gov. Jerry Brownrevisited efforts to increase new housing through legislation that would streamline permitting and create incentives for local governments to meet housing goals.

The plan released Tuesday is far less specific than a permit-streamlining proposal floated by the administration last year. That proposal was defeated in the Legislature. But Tuesday’s plan asks for a bill package containing the same basic provisions of the prior proposal: creating incentives for local governments to lower fees and streamlining the lengthy building approvals process.img2205750xx4032-2268-0-378

“What we can do is cut the red tape, cut the delays, cut whatever expenses we can afford to do to make housing more affordable,” the governor said in a press conference with the release of his 2017-18 budget proposal.

The new budget documents call for a legislative package that would reduce regulatory barriers and fees related to housing construction, reward local governments with funding and other incentives for meeting housing goals, and penalizing governments that fail to make changes by tying housing construction to infrastructure funding.

Last year, Brown failed to muster support for a plan that would have raised $400 million for affordable housing while cutting environmental reviews at the local level. The so-called by-right proposal died at the hands of construction trades and environmentalists.

The new budget proposal showed a far less specific plan than the governor proposed last year. Brown acknowledged that the prior proposal was criticized for its lack of input from lawmakers and other interest groups. This new plan, while less specific, opens the door for greater consensus, Brown said.

The administration’s 2017-18 budget proposal also would allocate $3.2 billion in state and federal funds for grants and loans related to affordable housing construction, and provide assistance for homeowners with down payments and “supports for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.”

Those public housing investments do not represent any new general fund spending — they maintain a current stream of funding. However, the budget also provides $262 million in new housing spending related to the No Place Like Home law approved by the Legislature last year.

Legislators have come up with alternative proposals to fund affordable housing that would not touch environmental permitting.

State Sens. Jim Beall of San Jose and Toni Atkins of San Diego have proposed funding affordable housing with $75 fees on real estate transactions. Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco proposed eliminating a tax break for vacation homes in order to raise $300 million in tax credits for affordable housing.

Article and image provided by: Sacramento Business Journal

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