Novato’s affordable housing tug-of-war is , but there was big news out of Sacramento on Thursday on the subject. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Assembly bill authored by Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, designed to provide more flexibility for local governments to meet state-mandated housing quotas.
Novato residents erupted last year when they started to understand the rules about cities meeting workforce housing needs. Novato was in the middle of the housing element portion of its periodic general plan update and needed to identify specific properties around town where housing could be constructed to meet state and regional quotas. The result was — sometimes raucous and vein-popping — about how much power the state should have over a city’s housing responsibilities.
Huffman worked with city and county officials, including — who represents most of Novato — on crafting Assembly Bill 1103, which starting Jan. 1, 2012, will adjust local housing element requirements by providing incentives for transit-oriented development and more wiggle room for local governments in meeting the mandates. See the text of the bill for all the details.
Huffman said he was pleased the governor “saw the need to reform the current one-size-fits-all approach in housing element law,” he said in a press release. “This bill will allow local governments to convert vacant, foreclosed homes to low or very-low income housing as a way to meet their affordable housing goals.”
Arnold, the Fifth District supervisor in Marin, said Huffman has made it easier for Marin County to acquire existing housing that will count for affordable housing quotas. “He has worked doggedly to get this bill signed, and we owe him our thanks,” she said in the release.
Huffman and Arnold negotiated for about nine months with city and county officials and housing advocates to address housing element law. The state Department of Housing and Community Development sets regional quotas based on population growth and need and requires municipalities to demonstrate an ability to provide for sufficient housing by use of property zoning. It also uses a complicated and controversial formula to set density defaults.
Huffman’s proposal to create a process for cities and counties to apply for density default re-designations was removed from the bill, but he has asked an advisory group at state housing department to analyze the impact of default densities for residential zoning and consider to including senior housing in the framework.