February 6, 2023

In search of to alleviate the housing disaster by constructing houses in God’s yard, the brand new invoice will permit California church buildings, synagogues, mosques and different non secular establishments to construct reasonably priced housing on their property, even when the land shouldn’t be earmarked for residential use.

Simply sooner or later into the brand new legislative session, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) unveiled Senate Invoice 4, the Religion Lands Inexpensive Housing Act. The invoice will remove crimson tape for non secular teams and non-profit faculties that wish to construct low-income housing, making them proof against sure lawsuits, appeals, and denials within the allow course of.

As housing shortages proceed to power individuals out of an overvalued market, Bay Space non secular establishments are displaying rising curiosity in changing unused properties, equivalent to parking heaps they do not want, into houses. Church buildings equivalent to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek constructed low-income flats on their land. Others, equivalent to Hayward’s First Presbyterian Church, have created tiny residence communities for homeless residents. Supporters have dubbed the motion “YIGBI” or “yeah in God’s yard”.

Wiener is making an attempt for the third time to streamline housing building on non secular lands. His earlier two makes an attempt – SB 899 in 2020 and SB 1336 earlier this 12 months – have been unsuccessful.

“This can be a appeal for the third time,” Viner stated Tuesday at El Bethel Arms, an reasonably priced housing complicated for the aged in San Francisco owned by El Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, “and we’re going to cross this laws to broaden reasonably priced housing right here. to California.”

If handed, the invoice would routinely redistribute land owned by faith-based organizations and nonprofit faculties to permit for housing growth, in addition to exempt tasks on that land from lawsuits introduced below the California Environmental High quality Act. And it’ll power cities to approve developments so long as they adjust to the peak, density and different growth guidelines of the world.

The regulation will solely apply to 100% reasonably priced housing tasks.

Almost 40,000 acres of land in California is used for non secular functions, in keeping with a examine by the Turner Middle for Housing Innovation on the College of California at Berkeley. The researchers estimate that in Alameda County, non secular teams personal 1,000 acres that may very well be transformed into housing. There are nearly 100 extra in San Francisco.

However when church buildings and different non secular organizations strive, they typically get slowed down in such crimson tape that they offer up, Wiener says. Overcoming the primary hurdle – rezoning land for residential growth – generally is a headache.

A number of reasonably priced housing advocates and spiritual leaders joined Wiener in talking out on the invoice’s deserves. Dozens of Carpenters’ Union members additionally confirmed up carrying security vests and laborious hats to assist the invoice.

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