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California Governor Wants to Make it Easier to Build Affordable Housing

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A new plan would speed up the approval process for affordable development

California Governor Jerry Brown is taking steps to encourage construction of badly-needed affordable housing across the state. As the LA Times reports, Brown has included a plan in his latest state budget proposal that would allow developers to skip over parts of locally-mandated review and permitting processes for projects with 20 percent of units designated affordable. That number drops to just 10 percent if the housing is located near a transit hub.

The plan does not, however, exempt developers from current zoning restrictions. UC Berkeley urban policy professor Carol Galante tells the Times that this may limit the plan's effectiveness in some areas. "Where this is going to help is with those cities who have already given lip service to higher-density zoning, but perhaps don’t really intend to see it through all the way," she says. In Los Angeles, a huge number of housing development projects require tweaks to an outdated collection of zoning codes.

Brown's proposal seems very likely to encounter huge resistance from the NIMBY opposition it appears to be trying to circumvent. Speeding up the approval process, of course, gives local groups less opportunity to stall or block development. It's also not clear yet whether this plan would create an opening for projects affected by the massively anti-development Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, should that ballot measure pass this coming March.