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Build Affordable Housing on Commercial Land -- Support SB6

March 22, 2021

Build Affordable Housing on Commercial Land -- Support SB6

According to a 2015 report by the State’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s High Housing Costs, “building less housing than people demand drives high housing costs” and California needed to have built substantially more new housing—in the range of 70,000 to 110,000 additional units each year and that. 

California already ranks 49th in the United States in housing units per resident. To address this, in the sixth cycle of our regional housing assessment need plans, the expectation for more housing has grown exponentially-for ABAG, 441,176 new homes and for SCAG 1.3 million new homes by 2029. 

Senate Bill 6 allows jurisdictions to meet their RHNA goals in a thoughtful manner that supports local control and without displacement. This bill potentially opens up thousands of square miles of commercial-only-zoned land in California for development of new market rate and affordable housing units. 

In 2018, we studied residential as a potential and allowable use on large shopping malls and office parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. We learned that 75% of these locations were zoned ‘commercial only.” 

SB 6 could ease gentrification pressures on our central cities by allowing housing as a use in underutilized shopping malls. These commercial sites are also frequently near transit and have been developed thereby also easing some environmental concerns.  Housing development on large commercial sites, such as office parks, is the most environmentally responsible approach, putting housing literally next to jobs. 

Finally, housing development at the locations of the growing number of closed up shopping malls due to national retail economic restructuring will provide economic stability to those communities and stop the threat of damaging disinvestment.

This bill concept is also popular among state voters. A January 2021 California statewide poll by David Binder Research revealed that when asked about potential new state legislation that would allow new housing development in all areas of California where current local zoning rules only allow commercial development, like office parks and shopping malls, 61% of voters polled supported this.

Senate Bill 6 would open up thousands of square miles of commercial-only-zoned land in California for development of hundreds of  thousands of new market-rate and affordable housing units.

An evaluation of just the large shopping malls and office parks in the San Francisco Bay Area two showed a potential for more 200,000 new housing units.

But 75% of these locations are now zoned ‘commercial only.’ SB6 will open the door to build more homes across California without any adverse impacts on existing neighborhoods. 

Allowing new housing on commercial property is the definition of sustainable urban development. Most locations are near existing public transit and offer close proximity to employment centers or regional retail clusters.

SB-6 will allow the construction of high-density affordable housing across the Golden State, dramatically increasing land value.

Keep Families Housed

  • We all deserve to have a home, food and medicine to keep us healthy. Now more than ever, our collective well-being depends on it. And yet, at a time when housing security is recognized as paramount, we face a massive eviction and foreclosure crisis beyond anything we have seen before, unless our government steps in to stabilize the housing market, and thus, the economy.

  • Millions of workers have been laid off, had their hours reduced, or have been forced to take time away from work because of their own health, or to take care of sick family members or children whose schools have closed. Record unemployment is expected to continue at least into next year.

  • In September, the CA State Legislature passed temporary renter protections, Assembly Bill 3088. AB 3088 prohibits evictions based on unpaid rent due to COVID-19 These protections are set to expire January  2021. Many will be unable to resume paying their full rent in February 2021, and large numbers of struggling renters will be incapable of paying rent accrued in the previous months because they will not have the income to do so, resulting in mass evictions and crushing debt. 

  • As the pandemic rages on, it is imperative that we stop all evictions for non-payment of rent or mortgage accrued during the throes of COVID-19

  • The state should compensate small landlords and non-profit housing operators who need assistance to mitigate the economic impact of COVID pandemic as necessary to ensure housing stability, with conditions to protect tenants and ensure safe and healthy housing.