Today’s Solutions: January 19, 2022

With new policies surrounding oil extraction, recycling, and building codes, California has led the way on green policymaking this year. Now, the state is taking aim at low-carbon affordable housing with a series of new laws that remove red tape surrounding progressive construction.

The first law, Senate Bill 9, removes some of the barriers surrounding single-family home zoning and permits property owners to build duplexes or split their lots to make new housing options more sustainable and affordable. Single-family lots make up three-quarters of zoned land in California, meaning that the new law will allow 700,000 homeowners in the state to build new units on their lots.

The second law, Senate Bill 10, also addresses zoning by allowing local governments to circumvent zoning rules in urban areas with plenty of public transit. For progressive cities itching to improve their housing landscape, California State Senator and bill author Scott Wiener says, “This new law will cut maybe five to 10 years off the rezoning process.”

Lastly, Senate Bill 8 closes some of the loopholes which cities use to prevent the expansion of affordable housing. These include stricter zoning to prevent housing expansion and increasing the cost of building permits.

As the most populous state in the US, California is facing a serious housing crisis. Outdated policies like single-family zoning contribute to a shortage of affordable housing and encourage the construction of homes with a higher environmental footprint. These three laws are a strong step forwards in expanding affordable housing options while decreasing resource use and reducing the expansion into natural habitats which takes a toll on local ecosystems and exacerbates wildfire risk.

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