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Santa Monica Housing Bill Among 56 Signed into Law

By Lookout Staff

October 13, 2023 -- A tenant with "a disability related to mobility" can seek to be moved to a first-floor unit under a bill co-sponsored by the City of Santa Monica that was signed into law Wednesday.

AB 1620 authored by Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D), whose District includes Santa Monica, was one of 56 bills signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom that aim to fast-track new housing construction and bolster tenant protections.

The Santa Monica co-sponsored legislation is the first time the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act -- which allows landlords to charge market rate for most vacant units -- has been significantly amended since it was passed in 1995, City officials said.

Under the new law, local jurisdictions can adopt regulations requiring property owners to allow mobility disabled tenants with a permanent condition to move into an accessible unit that is comparable or smaller under the same rent and lease terms.

“We know that those with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing homelessness and this is another tool, along with Santa Monica’s strong renter protections, to help keep everyone in our community housed,” said Mayor Gleam Davis.

Rent Control Board Chair Anastasia Foster, who helped co-author the bill, said the "common-sense amendment demonstrates the ability of tenant advocates and property owners to work together to help some of our most vulnerable."

Among the housing bills signed into law was AB 12, which reduces the security deposit a landlord can collect from the equivalent of two months rent for an unfurnished unit and three-months rent for a furnished unit to one month's rent in all cases. The bill takes effect July 1.

Two bills sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener (D) will grant the State more power to boost housing development, especially affordable housing.

SB 423 removes the Sunset on SB 35, which allows streamlining for all projects with at least 10 percent lower-income units if a jurisdiction does not have a compliant housing element. The new law pushes back the expiration date for SB 35 from 2025 to 2036.

SB 4 makes 100 percent affordable housing projects a use by right on land owned by faith institutions and on surplus land owned by nonprofit colleges. The move will open up 170,000 acres for affordable housing, according to Wiener.

Meanwhile, a much watered down version of SB 567, a rent stabilization bill introduced by Sen. Maria-Elena Durazo (D) will take effect April 1 after it was recently signed into law.

Durazo's bill began as an ambitious attempt to expand the Tenant Protection Act (TPA) by covering more tenants in single-family homes and lowering the rent cap.

But after push back the final version only clarifies the TPA’s no-fault just cause provisions and enhances enforcement to protect low-income tenants from being evicted by landlords seeking to increase the rent.

Meanwhile, Newsom vetoed AB 309, sponsored by Alex Lee (D), which would create a new State program to facilitate the development of as many as three social housing projects on State-owned surplus land.

Newsom said the bill could cost several hundred million dollars to implement, while the State was already using surplus land to build affordable housing.

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