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Just as California Is Making Headway for a Housing Boom, COVID-19 Interferes

This was the good news: 2020 was supposed to be the year California starts ending homelessness. It was right on track, too.

At the start of the year, Gov. Gavin Newsom spearheaded the passing of a supposed “production package.” He was backed by a number of lawmakers. The goal was to have more housing projects with priorities on affordable homes.

In February, Newsom delivered his State of the State address and said that it was simply unacceptable that the state is not building enough houses. That would change, he promised. Unfortunately, at that time, there were no concrete plans or details yet.

Then the pandemic hit. California Legislature closed. Businesses were shut down. Many people lost their jobs and businesses. Thousands of Californians could not afford to pay their mortgage. It was a terrible timing.

Housing bills

Despite the pandemic, some bills related to the goal of building more houses in California moved forward. Many, though, failed to take root.

There were three bills aimed at advancing various homeless programs that were killed. These were the bill to spend $2 billion annually for homeless programs, a bill for permanent funding for homeless programs, and the bill that requires local governments in California to reduce homelessness to as much as 90% by 2028.

Related bills that are not necessarily focused on homelessness were similarly axed. There was that proposal to approve housing on lands identified as commercial and another that will allow denser and taller housing developments in some regions. There was also a bill that would allow rezoning of small areas for small developments even without environmental assessment.

Some of the proposed laws were obviously controversial, which prompted some infighting in the legislature. The legislators and the policy advocates needed more time to discuss the details of the bills and perhaps, make a deal.

Unfortunately, there was no time for it and focus was needed elsewhere. There were also policies that need to be made in the fight against the pandemic.

One of the more urgent matters that needed attention was the possible evictions of people who failed to pay their rent. In a way, this is related to housing, just not in the context that the earlier-mentioned bills pertain. Still the government’s intervention against eviction is a way to prevent more situations of homelessness.

The Assembly Bill 1436 prevented landlords from evicting their tenants who failed to pay their rent due to COVID-19-related financial distress. The eviction ban, though, will end on September 2.

Dense buildings

At least, California was able to pass bills that promoted the building of duplexes and four-plexes. These types of buildings allow multiple families to be housed in just one building. These types of buildings are now allowed in communities supposedly identified solely for single-family homes.

A lot of single-family areas were also determined to be big enough for duplexes, hence, they could be transformed as such. A duplex is more affordable than a single-detached house because one unit is smaller. Also, it would mean that families would be sharing a wall or floor-ceiling in the case of an up-and-down duplex.

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