Vacant malls could become housing under recently passed California bills

Diving brief:

  • California lawmakers on Monday approved a pair of bills that could allow new housing development in underutilized commercial and retail space such as largely vacant malls.
  • The State Assembly AB-2011 and that of the Senate SB-6 intend to help increase the stock of available housing in California, the shortage of which has contributed to the rising cost of buying or renting a home. The law again needs a signature of Governor Gavin Newsom.
  • “These bills will change the trajectory of the housing crisis in California,” said Buffy Wicks, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development, in A declaration. “The impact will be historic – lack of land will no longer be a problem for housing production.”

Overview of the dive:

To meet California’s housing needs, 2.5 million more homes need to be built over the next eight years, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development 2022 report statewide housing plan, released earlier this year. Which consists in around 421,000 housing units for people with modest incomes and around 1 million for people with low or very low incomes.

At the Urban Land Institute’s Spring Meeting in April, housing experts and real estate industry leaders said retail space was overbuilt in the United States and the shift to online shopping line had prompted retailers to reduce their square footage. Replacing these vacant and underutilized strip malls and malls with developments that mix residential housing with shops, restaurants, hotels and retail space could help the state meet its affordable housing needs, they said. said experts.

However, local laws that prevented residential housing in commercially designated areas limited such developments in many cities across the state.

Both bills authorize the construction of housing in areas reserved for offices, retail and parking located in such commercial areas. The Assembly Bill allows subdivisions in areas that meet certain affordable housing and environmental requirements.

The Senate bill, supposed to increase the number of housing units for middle-income earners, allows construction of market-priced housing in these areas following a streamlined local approval process. However, the construction of these developments must meet certain labor standards, under an agreement that lawmakers concluded with the unionswho supported the legislation.

If both become law, developers would have the option to meet the standards set out in the Assembly or Senate bill.

Efforts to override local authority or reform restrictive zoning laws have historically been pushed back. The advocacy group Livable California said the Assembly bill would take away flexibility from local jurisdictions “to place housing where it best meets the needs of the community.”

However, groups advocating for the construction of new housing in the state, including California YIMBY – an acronym for groups that support housing density, “yes in my backyard” – praises the legislation.

In a statement, State Senator Anna Caballero said the Senate bill “would stimulate the creation of housing in existing commercial and retail spaces, and help make homeownership more accessible to working families. The Assembly bill, meanwhile, would “accelerate the production of millions of affordable, mixed-income housing units along commercial transit-friendly corridors,” Caballero added.

Bernard P. Love