Echoing tougher talk from his housing department, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a flurry of housing bills designed to increase production and stem the state's longstanding affordability crisis.
At an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Newsom said he's signing more than three dozen housing-related bills as part of a package that could speed up housing production in commercial areas, among other changes to state laws. Flanked by union representatives and a coalition of state legislators, Newsom harkened back to his time as mayor of San Francisco and vowed to use state authority to finally make progress on California’s persistent housing shortage.
“It has been a stubborn issue decade after decade,” Newsom said. “Meanwhile, folks started moving out, started thinking about moving out, got kicked out, folks ended [up] out on the sidewalks and streets in record numbers.”
Among the newly signed bills is State Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB 886, which aims to make it easier to build student and faculty housing for public colleges and universities by removing lengthy environmental reviews, which have been used to block housing for political reasons.
Other potentially consequential bills would make it easier to build housing in some commercial areas and address delays in the permitting process by clarifying timelines and expectations for builders. Other bills addressed housing for farm workers, accessory dwelling units, housing finance and other housing-related matters.
On Twitter, state legislators cheered the bill-signing spree and called it a watershed moment for the state, which has grown unaffordable for many residents and families.
Newsom emphasized local accountability in his speech, mentioning his Department of Housing and Community Development’s investigation of San Francisco’s permitting timelines and policies, which are among the most onerous in the state.
He said he was speaking “sternly” in those calls for accountability, but said the state’s approach wouldn’t be punitive—rather, he emphasized giving cities the tools they need to expand housing production.
“That letter that HCD sent, it’s not because we don’t love you,” Newsom said. “It’s because we love you. And you’re going to see more of that until we see more housing.”
Newsom also announced a second round of funding, at over $1 billion, to help 30 housing projects statewide begin construction. San Francisco was awarded three project grants in the first round of funding and four in the second.
Newsom further dug into his warning to San Francisco in response to a question about the investigation and the news that homeless advocates are now suing the city for what they say are illegal practices during sweeps.
“Just build housing,” Newsom said. “It's not even that complicated…They’re running out of excuses.”
Annie Gaus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org