New Legislation Would Increase Affordable Homes in California

Up for Growth Action-backed bill boosts state's density bonus law

February 17, 2020 | Up for Growth
Reading time: 4 minutes min

SAN DIEGO, CA – Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced AB 2345, a Bill to Enhance California's Statewide Density Bonus Law, today at an event in San Diego. She was joined by Up for Growth Action, Circulate San Diego, and other stakeholders in support of the legislation. Modeled on a policy expansion in San Diego, AB 2345 would increase the maximum allowable density and number of available incentives under the California's Density Bonus Law. AB 2345 is a modest change to an existing policy program that will have outsized positive effects. If enacted, these modifications would lead to more affordable housing and more market-rate housing for Californians.

“Up for Growth Action and its supporters across California applaud Assemblywoman Gonzalez for her leadership in introducing AB 2345,” said Mike Kingsella, Executive Director of Up for Growth Action. “Her legislation would make smart and sensible changes to the state’s Density Bonus Law, and if passed would increase housing for people of all income levels across California. We’re honored to stand with her and our California supporters in supporting this innovative proposal.”

“San Diego’s enhanced bonus program has driven the production of new market-rate and affordable homes,” said Colin Parent, Executive Director and General Counsel at Circulate San Diego. “Expanding that successful policy state-wide will help chip away at California’s severe housing shortage.” Circulate San Diego led a coalition of climate and housing advocates to adopt San Diego’s enhanced bonus program in 2016.

In 2016, the city of San Diego expanded the state Density Bonus Law and increased the maximum bonus to 50% if developers provide 15% very low income, 24% low-income units, or 44% moderate income units. Since the expansion, the city has seen a 900% increase in project applications per month, a 473% increase in deed-restricted affordable units per month, and a 453% increase in unit creation per month, compared with the use of the prior state program.

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The Density Bonus Law also provides projects with development incentives, which serve as concessions for local land development policies. Incentives can include things like reduced setback requirements, changes to building envelopes, or other regulatory changes that result in lower cost to development. Municipalities are required to grant the incentives requested by the developer unless they can prove that the incentives would negatively affect public health and safety, the environmental, or protected historic property. In addition to the incentives, projects near transit qualify for lower parking ratios and can apply for waivers to reduce development standards that prohibit the construction of a project. AB 2345 increases the maximum number of incentives used from three to five.

In 2018, Up for Growth released Housing Underproduction in California which determined from 2000 – 2015 the state fell 3.4-million units short of meeting housing demand. This shortage accounts for nearly half of the nation’s total shortage over the same time period. Implementing important policy solutions like AB 2345, can help California meet housing demand, use less land, take cars off the road, reduce CO2 emissions, and boost the state economy.

Up for Growth California, a state project of Up for Growth Action, issued a coalition letter of support this morning for AB 2345. Up for Growth California is led by Up for Growth Action's California Steering Committee, which is comprised of an array of housing stakeholders from across the state. 

Up for Growth Action, a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, fosters equitable growth by empowering a diverse member network in advancing research and policy that eliminate structural barriers to housing. You can learn more at http://www.upforgrowth.org.