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Home » California streamlines process for the creation of new housing sustainability districts

California streamlines process for the creation of new housing sustainability districts

In a bid to address California’s housing supply and affordability crisis, the state passed several bills late last year. One of these is Assembly Bill 73, which is designed to make it easier for local governments to establish housing sustainability districts.

Let’s take a closer look:

AB 73 empowers any city or county to establish an ordinance towards creating a housing sustainability district, which will help increase housing density as well as streamline residential real estate development under the following conditions:

  • The area, through the issuance of permits, is zoned for residential use;
  • The minimum density for multifamily developments is the same as the density required for low-income housing;
  • The minimum density for single-family homes is 10 units per acre at minimum;
  • Proposed real estate developments have been issued permits and are in keeping with local building codes and designs;
  • There are no moratoriums or limitations on residential use that apply to the locale;
  • There are no occupancy or age restrictions in the area;
  • Proposed housing units are in compliance with the local, state and federal fair housing laws;
  • The district area in question doesn’t surpass 15% of the total land area under the city’s and country’s jurisdiction;
  • The total area of the sustainability district doesn’t exceed 30% of the total land area under the city’s or county’s jurisdiction;
  • The city or county offers a review method by way of an approving authority;
  • All developments in the sustainability district fully comply with the requirements for replacing affordable housing units.

The housing sustainability district ordinance must impose the following requirements:

  • An established authority that will review all permit applications for any development to be done in the district;
  • At least 20% of residential units in the district is affordable to households that are moderate, low and very low income, as well as meet affordability restrictions for tenants 55 years old and up;
  • The developer must certify whether or not the real estate project is a public work and if not, all construction workers on the project must be paid the prevailing wages for their type of work, at the very least and this must be stated in the employment contracts;
  • Projects including a subdivision must be excluded, in keeping with the Subdivision Map Act
  • Under the subdivision law, all construction workers must be paid prevailing wages unless the project gets funding via a low income housing tax credit
  • Relocation assistance must be provided to residents who have been displaced because of real estate developments within the district
  • The guidelines will remain in place for no longer than 10 years but renewal is possible for up to another 10 years

When providing for mixed-use developments, the city and/or county should apply uniform standards to all projects within the districts. There must be ordinances for the following:  

  • Public access
  • Parking
  • Grading
  • Hillside development
  • Conservation
  • Flood plains
  • View protection
  • Greenhouse gas emissions reduction

Any amendments or repeal of a district must have written approval from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

The city or county must apply to the DHCD for preliminary approval of any ordinances for a district.

If the DHCD denies their application, the DHCD should thoroughly inform the city or county of the application’s deficiencies. After preliminary approval is obtained, the DHCD will have 45 days upon receipt of the application to confirm approval.