California lawmakers vote to fast-track low-income housing on churches’ lands

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — During the final two weeks of the Legislative session, California lawmakers are debating nearly 1,000 bills. The California Legislature took the following actions on Thursday:

California lawmakers voted on Thursday to allow religious institutions and nonprofit colleges to convert parking lots and other properties into low-income housing to help combat the state’s ongoing homeless crisis.

The bill would rezone land owned by nonprofit colleges and religious institutions like churches, mosques, and synagogues to make room for affordable housing. They would be able to avoid most local permitting and environmental review rules, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

California is home to 171,000 homeless people, accounting for roughly 30% of all homeless people in the United States. The crisis has sparked a movement among religious institutions in cities across the state known as “yes in God’s backyard,” or “YIGBY,” with a number of projects already in the works.

However, churches and colleges frequently face significant challenges when attempting to convert surplus land and underutilized parking lots into housing because their land is not zoned for residential use. Before breaking ground in 2021, an affordable housing project in a San Jose church had to go through a rezoning process that took more than two years.

The goal of this legislation, according to Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener, who authored it, is to make it easier to build much-needed housing in the state.

The bill, which was approved by the Assembly, must now be approved by the state Senate before being sent to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, where he will decide whether to sign it into law.

The law would only apply to affordable housing projects and would expire in 2036.

Hundreds of faith-based organizations and several community colleges in Orange County, according to Democratic Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, could use this bill to expedite affordable housing projects.

“If only a small fraction of them chose to build very small amounts of units, we could start picking away at this issue one church at a time, one educational institution at a time,” she said on Thursday.

Supporters of the bill stated that it could contribute to the addition of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units to the state’s housing stock. According to a recent Terner Center for Housing Innovation study, California religious and higher education campuses have more than 170,000 acres (68,797 hectares) of land that would be eligible under the bill.

Several cities, however, opposed the bill, claiming that it would take away local control over housing developments. Environmental groups are also concerned that the bill lacks sufficient safeguards and would place low-income housing near polluting areas such as freeways, industrial facilities, and oil and gas plants.

The deadline for lawmakers to act on this and other bills is September 14. When lawmakers complete their work, Newsom will have a month to decide whether to sign the bills into law.

The Legislature passed legislation to ensure that school curricula reflect California’s and the United States’ cultural and racial diversity.

The bill would also require school boards to approve instructional materials that depict LGBTQ+ people and their contributions accurately. It would prohibit school boards from rejecting textbooks because they mention the contributions of people of a certain race or sexual orientation.

It’s a problem that has arisen in a number of states. Temecula Valley Unified School District in Southern California rejected an elementary social studies curriculum that included materials mentioning Harvey Milk, a former San Francisco politician and gay rights advocate. Newsom threatened to fine the school board $1.5 million. The board later changed its mind.

The bill was fiercely debated by state senators. They called a “timeout” after Democratic Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, said Republican Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh’s comments about the bill were irrelevant. Republicans and Democratic Senator Marie Alvarado-Gil voted no.

According to Ochoa Bogh, the bill does not ensure that students’ school materials are age-appropriate. However, Democratic Senator Lena Gonzalez stated that school boards would be able to make those decisions.

Later that day, the state Assembly gave the bill its final approval, sending it to Newsom’s desk.

The proposal, introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Corey Jackson, was billed as an opportunity to show the nation that California would be “on the right side of history.”

“A yes vote means that these political class wars will not be declared on our watch and will not use our students and children as pawns,” Jackson said.

However, Republican Majority Leader James Gallagher stated that the bill would go beyond the authority of local school boards to approve class materials.

The state Assembly passed legislation to extend the life of a landmark law that streamlines rules for housing projects in cities that have not met state-mandated affordable housing goals. This is one of the year’s most contentious pieces of housing legislation.

According to the bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener, the original bill, which went into effect in 2018, has aided in the expediting of 18,000 homes, with roughly 75% of them being affordable housing.

The new bill would do away with the requirement to hire “skilled and trained workers,” which is typically sought by the powerful construction trades union, and instead require workers to be paid the prevailing wage, which is the average wage paid to workers, laborers, and mechanics in a given area.

In July, the state Coastal Commission and environmental groups were outraged because the bill would end the exemption for streamlined housing development in coastal zones. Opponents were concerned that the bill would place housing in areas vulnerable to sea-level rise or wildfires, paving the way for luxury apartments rather than affordable housing along the coast.

Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, a bill co-author, stated that the legislation applies only to coastal areas zoned for multifamily housing and that Wiener has worked with the commission to address critics’ concerns. The bill is no longer opposed by the Coastal Commission.

“We’re extending current law, so it’s not scary,” Wicks explained on Thursday. “It’s the moral thing to do.” We have proof that this program works.”


The state Assembly approved a bill on Thursday that would require schools serving grades one through twelve to have at least one gender-neutral restroom available for students by 2026.

The legislation would apply to schools that have both male and female restrooms. The bill comes amid discussions in California and elsewhere about transgender and nonbinary students’ rights, including whether teachers should notify parents if their child changes pronouns at school.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply