Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed the most important housing bill before him this year. AB 1229 (Atkins) would have restored to cities the power to enforce inclusionary housing laws that require affordable rental units as part of new construction. The veto was immediately condemned by tenant rights organizations and affordable housing advocates.
Over 150 California cities have inclusionary housing laws. An appellate court created chaos in 2007 by ruling that a local inclusionary law was preempted by the state’s Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a 1996 law that had nothing to do with inclusionary housing. The California Supreme Court refused to review the case, leaving Palmer / Sixth Street Properties v. City of Los Angeles in effect. AB 1229 would have overturned the Palmer decision, clarifying that it is up to cities whether they want to adopt and enforce inclusionary housing laws as a means to increase the supply of affordable rental housing.
The governor’s track record on affordable housing has not been good. As mayor of Oakland, he opposed inclusionary housing. At the state level he vetoed a housing preservation bill (AB 1216) soon after taking office. He dismantled redevelopment and has failed to offset the loss of funding or otherwise increase funding for the development of affordable housing. He has announced no major affordable housing policy initiatives since taking office. His solution to the housing affordability crisis in California appears to be to let the free market do whatever it wants.
Many hoped that the governor would sign AB 1229 as a local control bill. Whether or not he thought inclusionary was a good policy when he was mayor, the thinking was that as governor he might let local cities decide their own fate, as they did before the Palmer decision. Instead, as is clear from his veto message, he did the opposite -- prohibiting cities across the state from adopting inclusionary laws because he didn’t like them for Oakland.
"As mayor of Oakland, I saw how difficult it can be to attract development to low and middle income communities," Governor Brown wrote in his October 13 veto message. "Requiring developers to include below-market units in their projects can exacerbate these challenges, even while not meaningfully increasing the amount of affordable housing in a given community." Apparently, the Governor believes he knows better than affordable housing experts across the state how to “meaningfully increase the amount of affordable housing.”
A broad coalition of tenant groups, affordable housing advocates, and community-minded developers, supported the bill, as did most major newspapers around the state. Big developers, mega-landlords and realtors fought it with all of their might.
Governor Brown knew the issue here. He prioritized maximizing the profits of developers and realtors over housing struggling Californians.
With rents skyrocketing, the need for affordable rental housing has never been greater. AB 1229 would have expanded the supply of affordable rental housing at no cost to the government.
Advocates cannot allow the gutting of inclusionary housing laws to stand. Through litigation, new legislation and/or a ballot measure, Palmer must be overturned so that cities can once again require affordable rental housing as part of new housing development.