In October, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) vetoed legislation that would reauthorize municipalities to adopt or continue implementing ordinances with inclusionary rental housing requirements for low income households. The legislation, AB 1229, would have overturned a 2009 appellate court ruling known as the Palmer Decision, which held that state rent control law prohibited cities and counties from using inclusionary zoning practices. California advocates are dismayed by Governor Brown’s decision, which provides another road block to affordable housing development after 400 state redevelopment agencies were dissolved in 2011 (see Memo, 1/27/2012). The Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), an NLIHC state coalition partner and a lead advocate for AB1229, plans to continue efforts to overturn the ruling.
For nearly 40 years, approximately 170 jurisdictions in the state utilized inclusionary zoning to produce rental homes for families with low and moderate incomes. The practice, which requires all developments of a particular size to include a percentage of affordable homes, has helped create more than 80,000 affordable units in California since its implementation. The zoning ordinances have proven effective in reducing community opposition to the production of affordable housing by requiring it to be included in community development plans. It has also allowed lower income workers to live closer to their jobs located in wealthier areas, which has contributed to the creation of greener communities.
The 2009 appellate court ruling halted these successful programs under the grounds that the state’s Costa-Hawkins rent control law prohibits municipalities from expanding affordable housing through inclusionary practices. Advocates disagree with this interpretation and backed efforts in the 2012 state legislative session to overturn the ruling, but the legislation was halted in the Senate.
NPH helped advance an identical bill in the 2013 session, successfully building upon the support they received the prior year, and a greater public awareness of the need to protect development resources in the aftermath of Governor Brown’s elimination of the state’s 400 redevelopment agencies in 2011. A movement toward smart growth development models, in addition to a greater public understanding of the need to prevent displacement of low income people, also helped advocates secure wide support for the legislation. More than 100 municipalities and organizations endorsed the legislation, including NLIHC state coalition partners California Coalition for Rural Housing, California Housing Partnership Corporation, Housing California, and Southern California Association of NonProfit Housing.
Assembly member Toni Atkins and state Senator Ben Hueso, secured passage of the bill through their respective chambers, despite opposition from the California Association of Realtors, California Building and Industry Association, and various regional apartment associations. Advocates were hopeful that Governor Brown would sign the bill considering his stated desire to give municipalities more control over their development efforts, but the governor vetoed the bill claiming that requiring a share of affordable housing units in projects will intensify challenges localities already have with attracting development to lower income communities. The decision means that cities like San Jose, which lost out on 500 affordable units in 2013 alone, will continue to have fewer tools to help address the great demand for housing affordable to people with low incomes.
NPH and its allies will work to reintroduce another bill to overturn the Palmer ruling after the state Supreme Court rules on an inclusionary zoning case involving the California Building Industry Association and the city of San Jose. In the interim, advocates will continue to advance strategies to educate lawmakers and potential allies about the importance of inclusionary housing, and will work to expand their list of supporters.
"The governor's veto is devastating to social equity efforts,” said Michael Lane, Policy Director for NPH. “Our housing market is broken and it is unable to build enough homes for working, lower-income families. Wages are not keeping up with the cost of housing and this lack of affordable homes is the key driver of poverty in California."
For more information contact Michael Lane, Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, firstname.lastname@example.org.