Earlier in June, Senator Scott Weiner (D11, San Francisco) reintroduced a bill that failed to move in last year’s session that would make it easier for churches and religious institutions to develop affordable homes on land they own. Known as Yes In God’s Back Yard (or YIGBY), Senate Bill 1336 would enable by-right housing development on religious lands and land held by nonprofit colleges, even if local zoning would otherwise not allow. By-right development exempts a developer from having to receive local discretionary approvals and going through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, though there are objective standards that would preclude development on environmentally unsafe or sensitive areas and required that the development occur on infill sites.

Many religious and nonprofit colleges have sought to use their property for housing development to respond to community needs. Their members and neighbors struggle to afford housing, and they see their unused land, including excess parking lots and open space, as a welcome solution. However, they have found it challenging to navigate the process of developing housing on their land. By partnering with affordable housing developers and streamlining the process, the cost to build new homes and the time to bring them online will both be reduced.

All developments would be required to be 100% affordable to low-and moderate-income households, with a restriction that no more than 20% can be targeted to moderate-income households earning up to 120% of area median income.

A 2020 study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation identified more than 38,000 acres of land throughout the State that could accommodate new homes. According to the study, if only 25% of this land ended up being developed at an average density of 30 units to the acre, it could create opportunities for 300,000 California families.