Ting Bill Links Housing Density with Affordability

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ting Bill Links Housing Density with Affordability

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announced legislation strengthening the ability of local community planning tools to result in more affordable housing.

“Housing costs are uprooting families and reducing access to high-wage jobs of the future.  Across California, families overpay for housing and commute great distances from what they can afford,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).  “This reform will mean communities get more affordable housing when awarding developers bonus units for greater housing density.”

Ting’s Assembly Bill (AB) 915 requires local governments with an inclusionary zoning ordinance for the construction of low income housing to apply the affordability requirement to the total number of units in a housing project granted under state density bonus laws unless the local government specifically acts to exempt bonus housing units.  Around the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments, there are a total of 78 inclusionary zoning ordinances in 73 cities, 4 counties, and the City and County of San Francisco.

A new report by California’s Department of Housing and Community Development identified various housing challenges.

  • Housing construction averaged less than 80,000 new homes annually over the last ten years but the projected need was 180,000 new homes.
  • Lack of supply and rising costs are contribute to growing inequality, limiting opportunities for younger Californians.
  • The majority of California renters – over 3 million households – pay more than 30 percent of their income towards rent, and nearly one-third – over 1.5 million households – pay more than 50 percent toward rent.

Inclusionary zoning refers to local planning ordinances that require a share of new housing construction to be affordable for people with low to moderate incomes.  Density bonuses are a zoning tool that that permits developers to build more housing units than normally allowed in exchange for a public benefit, such as a specified number of affordable units in the development. 

Here is what supporters of Ting’s AB 915 are saying.

“As the original author San Francisco’s first inclusionary ordinance and a longtime champion of inclusionary housing at the State Capitol, I believe we have a responsibility towards achieving real housing affordability goals,” said former State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).  “California’s state density bonus and local inclusionary zoning are two proven tools for creating much-needed housing for our workforce. But we need to ensure that these two mechanisms work effectively together, both adding dense, transit accessible infill units, and ensuring that the minimum affordable units mandated by local laws are achieved.  AB 915 makes that happen.”

“It is important to protect one core tool that communities have—a local inclusionary ordinance—to ensure developers are creating affordable housing units, not just market-rate housing,” said Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together.  “Increasing density of development shouldn’t result in a lower percentage of affordable units, yet that is exactly what is happening on some projects as an unintended consequence of state density bonus law. AB 915 plugs this loophole and will result in more affordable housing.”

“The state density bonus can be an effective mechanism for increasing affordable units in new housing development,” said Fernando Martí, Co-Director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations.  “We also have a very effective local Inclusionary affordable housing policy.  Yet as it is currently the state bonus law inadvertently undermines the inclusionary policy, effectively creating a cut in affordable housing units – so, a 20% inclusionary standard gets cut down to 15%. AB 915 simply equalizes our local Inclusionary housing to ensure that new housing development is both adding density and adding affordable units.”

“Inclusionary zoning is an essential tool to create affordable homes for low income Californians and to foster integrated neighborhoods with opportunities for all,” said Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, Deputy Managing Attorney at Public Advocates.  “AB 915 is a common sense policy that will allow cities with inclusionary zoning policies to fully achieve the goals of those policies, and make sure that state law does not inadvertently cause local affordable housing policies to get watered down.”

“We have worked hard to make sure East Palo Alto's Inclusionary Housing requirement at least provides some basic affordability in all the new development coming in,” said Daniel Saver, Senior Attorney for the housing program at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.  “That shouldn't be eroded by developers using state density bonus without any more affordable units.  This needs to be fixed so our local policies and state policies aren't contradicting each other.”


Contact: Anthony Matthews, tel. (916) 319-2019