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Newsom Signs New Law to Speed Housing Construction Across California

Construction workers are seen on the site of a new building in Los Angeles, California on Oct. 8, 2019. (Credit: Frederic J. Brown /AFP via Getty Images)

Construction workers are seen on the site of a new building in Los Angeles, California on Oct. 8, 2019. (Credit: Frederic J. Brown /AFP via Getty Images)

A new California law aims to stop communities from delaying construction of new housing projects.

It’s one of 18 housing bills signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

California is in the midst of a housing crisis with far fewer homes and apartments than necessary to house its nearly 40 million people. Lawmakers have passed dozens of bills aimed at boosting funding for affordable housing, easing development restrictions and helping renters facing rising costs.

The bill by Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley caps the number of public hearings on new projects, bans local governments from increasing fees on projects once an initial application is submitted and stops urban areas from freezing new construction. The measures are aimed at stopping cities and counties from delaying building when they have already zoned for new housing units.

Residential building permits fell 20% in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2018, Skinner’s office said.

“Scarcity drives up cost, whether you are paying rent or trying to buy a home,” Skinner said in a statement. “And the skyrocketing cost of housing hurts all of us, whether it’s our neighbors who are driven out of the communities they grew up in or the many who end up homeless. (This law) helps us get more housing now. We need it fast.”

The law will be in effect through 2025.

Other laws signed Wednesday aim to boost the construction of so-called “granny flats,” which are separate housing units connected to or in the backyard of an existing home. They are formally called “accessory dwelling units,” and are spaces that people could rent out or let family members live in.

Several proposals aim to better track surplus public land that could be used for housing development and otherwise ease restrictions on development. One law says projects that provide 100% affordable units will be allowed to build more densely than local zoning laws typically allow.

“This legislation will dramatically boost the production of affordable housing and ensure tens of thousands of lower-income Californians struggling to keep up with rising housing costs will have a safe, affordable place to call home,” said Ray Pearl, executive director of the California Housing Consortium, in a statement.

Newsom was visiting San Diego and Los Angeles on a statewide tour to tout housing legislation. The day before, he signed landmark legislation to cap annual rent increases on many properties at 5% plus inflation.

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