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Assemblymember Bloom's Bill to Ensure Housing Compliance Becomes Law

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By Jorge Casuso

September 28, 2021 -- A bill authored by Santa Monica Assemblymember Richard Bloom to ensure cities adequately re-zone to meet their State housing mandates was signed into law by Gov. Newsom Tuesday.

AB 1398 encourages cities and counties to submit in a timely fashion housing elements that comply with the housing targets set by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) every eight years.

Under the new law, jurisdictions that fail to adopt an HCD-compliant housing element within 120 days of the statutory deadline have one year to complete the required rezoning, instead of the current three years and 120 days.

“The housing element planning process is a key building block in the state's policies to foster the production of affordable housing and address homelessness," Bloom said in a statement Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, there have been instances where cities deliberately adopt faulty housing elements to avoid building their fair share of housing,” Bloom said.

Currently, jurisdictions that fail to adopt a housing element by the statutory deadline must adopt a revised housing element every four years, instead of every eight.

"This penalty for noncompliance with state housing deadlines has proven ineffective and has led to local agencies adopting deficient housing elements months after the deadline with no consequences," according to Bloom's office.

"Some local agencies have adopted non-compliant housing elements by the deadline to avoid a penalty of having to revise the element in four years."

Such efforts to avoid meeting the State housing quotas have contributed to California's current housing crisis, Bloom said.

“As the housing crisis grows in California, it is critical that every local government adopt a plan that meets the requirements of state law (and) that they do it on time," he said.

The plan should also "carry out necessary rezones to make land available for the production of housing, particularly higher-density zoned land that can accommodate housing affordable to lower-income households,” Bloom said.

The new law, which takes effect January 1, comes as an increasing number of cities has been objecting to State housing mandates they consider unrealistic.

Under the allocation finalized in March, Southern California must plan to build 1,341,827 new housing units by October 2029. Santa Monica's quota is 8,895 new units, 6,168 of them affordable.

While the previous City Council eagerly took up the challenge to meet Santa Monica's quota, 52 Southern California cities appealed their allocations, with only two of them succeeding.

In June, the Orange County Council of Governments (OCCOG) filed a lawsuit against HCD that claims the Southern California region’s share should be 651,000 housing units, less than half its allocation.

According to the lawsuit, the state used wrong population forecast data to determine housing needs. The State also used national averages instead of comparable regions to evaluate household overcrowding and cost-burden rates, the lawsuit claims.

Santa Monica Councilmember Phil Brock placed an item on Tuesday's agenda that calls for the Council to request that the Westside Cities Council of Governments (WSCCOG) join in the lawsuit ("Santa Monica Could Join in Challenge to State Housing Mandates," September 23, 2021).

Brock's item is the latest indication of the new Council's abrupt shift in housing policies ("New Council Breaks with Past Housing Policies," February 10, 2021).

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