AB 2011 Could Unlock Mixed-Income Housing

AB 2011

East Bay state representative Buffy Wicks, along with other co-sponsors including Senator Scott Wiener, proposed a compelling bill that aims to bridge a long-sought gap between pro-housing advocates’ desire for streamlining code-compliant multi-family residential projects with on-site affordability (both mixed-income and 100% affordable), and construction labor unions’ desire to ensure fair wages and future training for its members.

Known as the High Road Jobs Act of 2022, AB 2011 would allow ministerial, by-right approval for certain multi-family affordable housing. A development project in a zoning district where office, retail, and parking are principally permitted would be subject to streamlined, ministerial review if it meets many of the requirements for SB 35 eligibility, as well as additional locational and affordability requirements. AB 2011 projects would not need to obtain discretionary entitlements and would not be subject to CEQA.

To qualify for AB 2011 streamlining, housing development projects must either provide 100% affordability, or provide on-site affordable units, aka BMRs, in a primarily market rate project. As amended in the Senate on August 11, the on-site BMR requirement is somewhat complicated for rental units, but essentially requires between 12-15% BMRs unless a local requirement is higher, in which case the local program applies and additional AMI restrictions could be required. For condos, 30% could be offered at moderate income or 15% at lower income, and the same caveat about higher local requirements applies.

These projects would be subject to objective development standards, and additional qualifying criteria. As of August 11, the criteria for mixed-income projects include, but are not limited to:

  • proposing a multi-family housing development project;
  • abutting a commercial corridor and having a frontage at least 50 feet in width, on a site 20 acres or less in size;
  • not demolishing rent controlled or deed-restricted affordable units, or listed historic resources;
  • replacing no more than four existing units;
  • located no closer than 500 feet from a freeway;
  • providing relocation assistance to certain commercial tenants; and
  • vacant properties that are not zoned for multifamily residential use cannot qualify for streamlined ministerial processing.

Once an AB 2011 development application is submitted, several streamlining provisions apply. The local government must determine whether the project complies with objective planning standards within 60-90 days depending on unit count. If a local government determines that a project does not comply with objective planning standards, it must provide a written explanation to the proponent within this timeframe. Further, any design review must be completed within 90-180 days. Projects using the streamlined approval process would also be eligible for density bonuses, incentives, concessions, waivers, reductions in development standards, and potentially reduced parking ratios, under California’s density bonus law.

AB 2011 projects would also be required to pay construction workers at least the prevailing rate of wages and certify their compliance with this provision with the local government. As part of the developer’s obligation to pay prevailing wages, developers building 50 or more units of housing must submit monthly compliance reports to the local government.

Importantly, projects utilizing AB 2011 would not be a project for the purposes of CEQA (i.e. no environmental review) and the approval procedures the municipality would be permitted to use would solely be ministerial in nature.

In May of 2022, AB 2011 passed out of the California State Assembly, and is currently with the Senate, where it was voted out of committee on August 11. The bill has received several key union endorsements, including from the California Conference of Carpenters and SEIU. However, other unions, such as the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, and the California Labor Federation have opposed the bill claiming it would “eliminate[] the mandate that a skilled-and-trained workforce be a part of… [project] construction crews.” Unions such as the Building Trades Council oppose the bill because the bill would not require developers to use a “skilled and trained workforce,” which has the effect of eliminating the requirement that a certain percentage of workers on a project are unionized. The bill provides instead that for developments streamlined under AB 2011 that workers be paid a “prevailing wage” with some additional benefits such as healthcare coverage.

We will continue to track this potential game-changer of a bill as it makes its way through Sacramento.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorneys Mark Loper and Daniel J. Turner, and Law Clerk Alex Klein.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

State Takes Aim at Housing Fees and Permit Delays

housing fees

After a productive legislative year in 2021, the state legislature is continuing to tackle California’s ongoing challenges related to the housing crisis and lengthy processing times. Two bills would aim to minimize some of the roadblocks facing housing projects by bringing down both direct costs and holding costs. First, AB 2063 proposes to codify the state’s often disregarded stance that affordable housing fees do not apply to density bonus units. This would eliminate a significant cost for density bonus projects, which play a vital role in increasing housing production across the state. Second, AB 2234 proposes to enact time limits on processing and approving post-entitlement permits to create a more efficient and consistent process.  Both of these bills would help address some of the root causes of the high cost of building housing, including increasing impact fees and long-term holding costs associated with permitting.

AB 2063

This bill would update the State Density Bonus Law to clarify that affordable housing fees cannot be applied to density bonus units, except in limited circumstances. Although this is a relatively simple bill, its impact would be huge for housing projects in jurisdictions that have been requiring hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, in affordable housing fees on top of the on-site affordable housing units needed to qualify for the density bonus. The Attorney General issued an opinion in 2019 that this practice of applying impact fees on density bonus units was not permitted under the State Density Bonus Law. The Attorney General’s reasoning was that the imposition of these fees on density bonus units disincentivizes what the legislature clearly wished to incentivize—the construction of affordable housing. Despite the Attorney General’s opinion, some cities continue to apply affordable housing fees on density bonus units. This bill would codify the Attorney General’s opinion, putting this practice to rest.

The bill was introduced on February 14, 2022 by Assembly Member Berman and is sponsored by the Housing Action Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for building more housing for California residents of all income levels. It was unanimously passed by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 5th and the Assembly Local Government Committee on April 20th. It is now under review by the Appropriations Committee.

AB 2234

The Permit Streamlining Act sets time limits for the review and approval of entitlements. Its impact has been limited since its time limits run from completion of CEQA review, which is typically the main driver of entitlement schedules. This bill aims to put a similar, but more effective, framework in place for post-entitlement approvals. Due to challenges associated with staffing, permitting backlogs have long been a problem, especially in large cities with high volumes of construction. These delays increase holding costs and slow overall housing production. Given today’s inflationary environment, delays are even more problematic.

The bill would apply limits on the review process for all nondiscretionary permits for projects that are at least two-thirds residential. This would apply to building permits and permits for off-site improvements, demolition, excavation, and grading. Failure to meet any of the time limits would be treated as a violation of the Housing Accountability Act.

Specifically, the bill would require local jurisdictions to:

  • Publish an online checklist of requirements for applications to be deemed complete along with an example of an ideal application that developers can use as a reference. Cities with a population of at least 250,000 will also be required to accept and update the status of applications online, including noting whether anything is required from the applicant.
  • Provide written notice regarding whether the application is complete within 15 days. If a local agency does not make a timely determination, the application will be deemed complete.
  • Approve or deny a post-entitlement permit within 30 days of deeming the application complete for projects with up to 25 units, or within 60 days for projects with 26 or more units. This would not apply if the city makes a written finding that the permit may have a specific adverse impact on public health or safety and additional time is necessary to process the application.
  • Provide a process for applicants to appeal an incomplete determination and denial of a complete application within 60 days for projects with up to 25 units, or 90 days for projects with at least 26 units.

The bill was introduced by Assembly Members Rivas and Grayson on February 15, 2022 and is cosponsored by the Housing Action Coalition and Silicon Valley Leadership Group. It is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Local Government Committee today.

We will continue to monitor these bills and keep you updated as they move through the legislative process.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Sabrina Eshaghi.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.