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SACRAMENTO, Jan. 14, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in partnership with California Governor Gavin Newsom, today announced filing to intervene in San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation v. City of San Mateo to protect the state’s ability to address housing availability and affordability. At issue in this case is whether the state can regulate housing policy in charter cities, which cover 58 percent of the state’s population, just as it does in other cities under the Housing Accountability Act. Specifically, the Housing Accountability Act limits cities’ ability to reject proposals for housing developments that otherwise satisfy general plan and zoning requirements. In the filing, Attorney General Becerra asserts that the Housing Accountability Act is a constitutional exercise of the state’s authority and an important instrument in ensuring California’s housing protections are consistently applied throughout the state, including in charter cities like San Mateo.
“The state has a fundamental interest in helping Californians access affordable housing,” said Attorney General Becerra.“We all have to work together to take on this challenge and that starts with having the units we need to meet demand. This is about upholding our state’s laws and doing our part to ensure that all Californians have a place to live.”
“The Housing Accountability Act is an important tool to address California’s housing supply challenges,” said Governor Newsom. “I have asked the Attorney General to intervene in this case to defend the validity of this important tool and its application throughout the state, including to charter cities. California will defend our ability to tackle the cost crisis by holding all cities accountable to statewide housing policy.”
The filing announced today is part of an effort to defend the decades-old Housing Accountability Act, a state law originally enacted in 1982 in response to findings that inadequate access to housing is a critical problem that threatens economic, environmental, and social quality of life. In 2019, the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation filed a lawsuit challenging a decision by the San Mateo City Council rejecting a proposal to build a 10-unit housing complex in a residential area. Recognizing that the lack of affordable housing can contribute to housing discrimination, sprawl, excessive commute times, and air quality deterioration, the Housing Accountability Act sets limits on when multi-unit housing proposals that comply with California’s building codes can be rejected as part of a broader effort to increase overall housing supply. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, housing production in the state needs to average about 180,000 new homes per year to keep up with demand. However, over the last 10 years housing production has averaged less than 80,000 new homes each year. In 2017, California was estimated to have a shortage of 2.3 million housing units.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting access to affordable housing in California and across the nation. Last year, he urged the Trump Administration to rescind a harmful proposal that raises the specter of eviction for nearly 40,000 Californians. He also filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Oakland in a case against Wells Fargo, highlighting the state’s interest in protecting Californians against predatory lending. In 2019, the Attorney General fought back against a proposal by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that would weaken protections intended to safeguard against housing discrimination. Attorney General Becerra also joined a coalition of attorneys general seeking to protect federal rules allowing equal and consistent access to shelters for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. In 2018, he led a coalition of attorneys general in fighting to defend critical fair housing regulations under the federal Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.
A copy of the filing is available here.