By Josh Cohen.

This month, in the closing hours of the 2017 legislative session, state lawmakers passed a package of 15 bills meant to address California’s affordable housing crisis. Three of the most talked about bills create a new permanent source of funding for affordable housing construction, streamline the development review process and, if approved by voters next year, will cover billions of dollars in additional affordable housing construction. Though there were dissenting votes and disagreements on the details, the bills’ passage marks a somewhat rare instance of cooperation on affordable housing among the legislature and Governor Jerry Brown and municipal leaders throughout the state. All have clashed on the issues in the past.

Senate Bill 2 creates a new fee of $75 to $225 on real estate transactions such as home refinancing or the filling of other real estate documents. The fee is projected to raise $225 million annually to finance affordable housing construction.

Senate Bill 35 streamlines the approval process for new housing construction when it meets certain affordability, density, zoning and environmental criteria. Senate Bill 3will put a massive $4 billion bond measure on the November 2018 ballot. If approved by voters, the bond will fund $3 billion in affordable housing construction and $1 billion in home loans for veterans.

“These are significant steps in the right direction. For the last several years, state leaders haven’t been able to make progress on finding a solution to the state’s housing crisis. … By no means is the scale of what they’ve put in place going to solve the problem, but it’s moving in a direction they can expand upon going forward,” says Chris Hoene, executive director California Budget & Policy Center.

In late August, mayors from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose and Santa Ana traveled to Sacramento to lobby for senate bills 2 and 3. They see the new funding streams as critical replacements for the low- and moderate-income housing funds lost when Governor Jerry Brown ended the state redevelopment agency program in 2011.

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