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California Legislature Approves Senate Bill 330—The Housing Crisis Act of 2019

Senate Bill (SB) 330, authored by Democratic Senator Nancy Skinner, establishes the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, which, until January 1, 2025, places restrictions on certain types of development standards, amends the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), and makes changes to local approval processes and the Permit Streamlining Act.


The bill’s name says it all—California is in the midst of a housing crisis. Rents across the state continue to rise to levels higher than the rest of the country, while homeownership rates have continued to decline. One of the issues is that demand for housing is obviously high, yet builders find themselves unable to meet that demand because of local rules that limit the number of units they can build or simply prohibit building altogether. According to SB 330’s stated purpose, the bill is a targeted approach that prohibits the most egregious practices in the areas where housing is most needed. It prevents local governments from downzoning unless they upzone elsewhere, and it stops them from changing the rules on builders who are in the midst of going through the approval process. While SB 330 is aimed at alleviating the difficulties of the state’s housing issues, the bill’s provisions sunset in the year 2025 so that the Legislature can evaluate its effectiveness. The bill’s author, Senator Skinner said that:

Our failure to build enough housing has led to the highest rents and home ownership costs in the nation. My bill, SB 330, gives a greenlight to housing that already meets existing zoning and local rules and prevents new rules that might limit housing we so desperately need.

SB 330 is consistent with the recent wave of California housing bills, which strive to hold cities and counties accountable for following their own rules on housing. The legislation requires the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to identify affected cities and counties by June 30, 2020, but allows HCD to update the determination after the 2020 census. This determination remains valid until January 1, 2025. A summary of some of the bill’s objectives are outlined below.

Restrictions on Local Government

Prohibits affected cities and counties from imposing a moratorium or similar limitation on housing development, including mixed-use development, within all or a portion of the jurisdiction, other than to specifically protect against an imminent threat to health and safety. An affected city or county cannot enforce a moratorium until HCD approves it. HCD assumes approximately 400 jurisdictions would qualify as affected cities and counties, and four jurisdictions per year would make zoning ordinance changes that would impose a moratorium or other restriction on development.

Limits the number of land use approvals or permits necessary for the approval and construction of housing that will be issued or allocated within all or a portion of the affected city or county.

Allows an affected city or county to change land use designations or zoning ordinances to allow for less intensive uses if it concurrently changes the density elsewhere to ensure that there is no net loss in residential capacity.

Provisions Relating to Development Application Processes and Timelines

Some of the provisions SB 330 cover that it:

Provides that if a housing development project complies with the applicable objective general plan and zoning standards in effect at the time an application is deemed complete, a city or county shall not conduct more than five hearings in connection with the approval of that housing development project, consistent with the timelines under the Permit Streamlining Act. Also requires the city or county to consider and either approve or disapprove the application at any of the five hearings.


Reduces the time that a local government has to approve or disapprove an application under the Permit Streamlining Act from 120 to 90 days for a housing project that requires CEQA review and from 90 to 60 days if a housing project is at least 49% affordable.

Conclusion and Implications

SB 330 received overwhelming support from the California Legislature, with a 67-8 vote from the California Assembly and a final “ok” from the Senate on a 30-4 vote. SB 330 is currently on the Governor’s desk and the bill signing period for the last legislative session ends in October 2019. SB 330 will likely be signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, who has publicly endorsed the bill, which is unsurprising given his administration’s stated commitment to tackling the cost-of-living crisis in California. The full text and history of Senate Bill 330 is available online at:

(Nedda Mahrou)