Published On: July 6th, 2023 | Categories: Affordable Housing, Legislative Update, State Updates, Transportation |

As part of the budget deal reached between Governor Newsom and the Legislature, new laws were adopted to streamline and reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for infrastructure projects. This follows the Governor’s May announcement of a bold plan that proposed the adoption of eleven reform bills to speed up construction, limit the time courts have to consider CEQA challenges to nine months, expand streamlined CEQA permitting for certain projects, and maximize federal infrastructure dollars. Included in the Governor’s executive order was the creation of a new Infrastructure Strike Team to focus on infrastructure projects including solar, wind, and battery storage projects and transit and regional rail construction. But where does this leave housing?

Former Governor Jerry Brown once called CEQA reform “the Lord’s Work,” reflecting on the strength of powerful labor and environmental groups that wanted CEQA to remain as is. In recent years, some environmental groups have changed course and agreed that reform is needed.

While the CEQA reforms are significant, housing was not part of the package. When asked about the omission, the Governor said that housing would benefit from changes to record keeping and permitting timelines and touted the more than 20 CEQA bills that streamline housing development have been signed into law in recent years. Advocates strongly believe more action is needed to address CEQA abuse that has resulted in some projects being withdrawn and others absorbing higher costs and longer completion timelines. They have worked with legislators to introduce more than a dozen bills this session to streamline housing development, including a bill to extend and improve Senate Bill 35 (2017), which allows developments in jurisdictions that fail to meet their mandated Regional Housing Allocation Need (RHNA) goals to move forward ministerially without CEQA review.

According to the Governor’s Office, some of the ideas included in the Governor’s plan come from a comprehensive report – Building a More Inclusive and Sustainable California: Maximizing the Federal Infrastructure Funding Opportunity – produced by California Forward (CA FWD).

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About the Author

Chul Gugich, LDC
A principal of the LDC Policy, Legislative Research and Applications Team, Chul Gugich has 15 years of experience in affordable housing development and community building, working across a diverse spectrum of housing typologies and in service of a broad range of resident populations. Biography | Email

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