SB 50, the proposed legislation advanced by California State Senator Scott Wiener, has passed its’ first legislative hurdle: a 9 to 1 vote in the State Senate Committee on Housing.
In the process of debate and analysis, the bill once called an “affordable housing” law, is now just called a “transit-housing” bill that happens to ask for a percentage of the total number of units in a dense-packed, next-to-rail development to be affordable. That spells complete gentrification.
And SB 50 proposes to make that happen without any subsidy for a developer to use to have a financial incentive to add affordable housing. It seems State Senator Weiner and his SB50 proponents think truly affordable housing will just plain materialize under regulations calling for denser housing. As one person told me today: “The thinking is that people will move up to the more expensive units and leave the lower ones that will be cheaper.” I’m not kidding – that’s what I was told, today.
Or here’s another: “There are those who agree that tax increment financing should be used to help actually provide affordable housing, but there’s not enough of them to have that in SB50, so it’s just inclusionary zoning.”
When I said to my friend who’s on the side of Weiner on SB 50 that “This all sounds like Reagan-Era “Trickle-Down Economics” , she gasped – then laughed and said “Well, that’s where the legislative wrangling has taken us.”
So let me get this straight: we have a guy in Scott Weiner who calls himself a progessive, yet has drawn up a bill that looks for all the World like something President Ronald Reagan’s economics guru David Stockman would have come up with in the 80s. Which means Weiner’s really a Republican, right?
I remind everyone to be sure to read the bill that is SB 50, and note the words:
“This bill would require a city, county, or city and county to grant upon request an equitable communities incentive when a development proponent seeks and agrees to construct a residential development, as defined, that satisfies specified criteria, including, among other things, that the residential development is either a job-rich housing project or a transit-rich housing project, as those terms are defined; the site does not contain, or has not contained, housing occupied by tenants or accommodations withdrawn from rent or lease in accordance with specified law within specified time periods; and the residential development complies with specified additional requirements under existing law. The bill would require that a residential development eligible for an equitable communities incentive receive waivers from maximum controls on density and minimum controls on automobile parking requirements greater than 0.5 parking spots per unit, up to 3 additional incentives or concessions under the Density Bonus Law, and specified additional waivers if the residential development is located within a 1/2-mile or 1/4-mile radius of a major transit stop, as defined. The bill would authorize a local government to modify or expand the terms of an equitable communities incentive, provided that the equitable communities incentive is consistent with these provisions.”
That paragraph is full of ways a developer can wiggle out of building affordable housing. For example…
First, there’s this: “This bill would require a city, county, or city and county to grant upon request an equitable communities incentive when a development proponent seeks and agrees to construct a residential development…” – which means the developer has to ask for the provisions that are SB 50, right? Well, suppose the developer doesn’t do that? The bill is passive-agressive in its prose, and so that will lead to, at best, an iffy proposition regarding building affordable housing.
Second, there’s this: the bill does not have any language preventing a developer from receiving a zoning variance to build total market rate housing next to a transit stop – zero affordable housing units. There’s no provision of SB 50 that focuses on that possibility – so it’s a loophole.
SB 50 is nothing more than a tool to encourage high-density housing near transit, and the only reason the “affordable” component was installed was to appease those who want to stop the market forces that caused the giant homeless problem.
SB 50’s fans don’t care about addressing the homeless problem one bit.
By contrast, a serious transit-oriented affordable housing bill would allow for the creation of high density mandated affordable housing within tax increment financing zones designed by the City or County, and around a transit stop with up to a half-mile radius. The TIF money from the collected property tax within the TIF / Housing zone would go to the new housing developments to make units affordable.
SB 50 doesn’t do that. As it stands, SB 50 is pure and simple trickle-down economics applied to real estate. Vote no on SB 50. Democrats need to focus on democratic solutions, not republican ones.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media