Assemblymember Wicks pushes bill package to tackle housing crisis

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — This week, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) introduced a suite of legislation to address California’s housing crisis and also announced that she would be coauthoring several other housing bills. Wicks’ bills take a multipronged approach to protect renters, promote affordable housing, and produce new housing for Californians at all income levels.

“We need to protect people from displacement and homelessness as we work to make up California’s enormous housing shortage,” said Wicks. “My bills help Californians keep the housing they have and get the housing they need.”

Wicks’ AB 724 would create a statewide rental registry to track rent levels and evictions. These data would help state and local decision makers better gage displacement risk and potentially identify landlords who engage in illegal evictions. Wicks’ AB 726 would help stabilize households in rent-to-own agreements by offering them down payment assistance to put them on the path to full homeownership.

Wicks also introduced AB 723 to expand existing tax exemptions to help expand and preserve affordable housing. California already provides tax exemptions for certain affordable housing projects, but they do not necessarily apply when an existing building with market-rate rents is converted to affordable housing. AB 723 would allow buildings that convert to affordable housing and charge sufficiently low rents to claim these exemptions, even if initially some of the sitting tenants are not low income. Future tenants would be required to demonstrate low-income status when they apply for units.

Assemblymember Wicks also introduced AB 725 to help focus on developing more sustainable and naturally affordable housing types. The bill would specify that no more than 20 percent of a city’s regionally assigned above-moderate income housing quota could be accommodated by zoning exclusively for single-family homes. Although cities would remain free to allow single family homes and could still zone additional land exclusively for them, at least 80 percent of the land zoned to meet the city’s housing need for above-moderate income units would also need to allow multi-family buildings.

SB 18, which Wicks is coauthoring with State Senator Nancy Skinner, would provide funding to support direct assistance for households that are behind on their rent as well as legal assistance for tenants whose landlords may be trying to unlawfully evict them.

Wicks has also signed on to Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50, the MORE Homes Act, which would increase housing capacity near job centers and high-quality transit, while protecting renters and low-income communities from displacement. SB 50 would specify that within a quarter-mile of rail and ferry stops, new housing up to four stories would be allowed, with four stories allowed within one-half mile. SB 50 would also relax parking and density requirements in these areas, as well as in areas with high numbers of jobs and/or within one-quarter mile of bus stops that offer high-frequency service. SB 50 would exempt properties that have or have had renters within the past seven years and would also exempt low-income communities, giving them until 2025 to complete alternative plans to allow for more homes.

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Assemblymember Buffy Wicks represents California’s 15th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities of Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville, Albany, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, and Piedmont. You can learn more about Asm. Wicks at a15.asmdc.org