State lawmakers advance major housing bills, including a $75 fee on refinancing

As of September 2017, California lawmakers advanced key housing legislation clearing the most substantial hurdle for a package of bills aimed at addressing the state’s housing affordability crisis.

Legislators in the Assembly passed Senate Bill 2, a $75 fee on mortgage refinances and other real estate transactions except for home and commercial property sales. The measure is expected to raise $250 million a year to help finance new and rehabilitated developments for low-income residents — a key step, lawmakers said, in beginning to get housing costs under control.

“We are living during the worst housing crisis our state has ever experienced,” said Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco).

The bill required two-thirds support from Assembly members, a threshold that the bill’s author, Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), and legislative leaders had been struggling to meet. Assembly Democrats, who hold exactly a supermajority, have been wary of backing a measure that would increase fees. The lack of a decision on SB 2 had been holding up votes on potentially more than a dozen housing bills in the Legislature.

After the vote, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) hailed the decision as a “first in a generation” move to create a new, ongoing source of funding for low-income housing developments. “This is a tremendous accomplishment,” he said. “This was about the housing crisis that Californians have experienced for over a generation.”

Alongside SB 2, the Assembly passed five other housing bills, including two others considered the primary parts of the package of housing bills. Senate Bill 3 would place a $4-billion bond on the 2018 statewide ballot to finance low-income home building and provide home loans for military veterans. Senate Bill 35 would ease some local development restrictions in an effort to spur more home building.

All measures that passed that night face votes in the Senate before lawmakers adjourn. But similar versions of the bills have passed the Senate previously, and that night’s decisions were considered the most difficult. “We’re making huge strides tonight,” said Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto).

Gov. Jerry Brown has said he supports SB 2, 3 and 35, and has indicated his broader backing for other housing legislation still pending in both chambers.

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