Updated September 10, 2019
Senate Bill 592 “The Housing Accountability Act” is a statewide bill intended to incentivize the development of affordable and moderate-income housing in California by limiting the powers of local governments to disapprove most housing developments. Under state law, “housing developments” include residential units, mixed-use developments with a primary residential component, transitional or supportive housing, and accessory dwelling units.
As with similar statewide housing bills that have been proposed, including Senate Bills 330 and 50, this bill is complex and is bound to existing laws including the Housing Density Bonus Law. Overall, SB 592 significantly weakens the authority of cities and counties. It reduces a municipality’s review and approval powers over affordable housing developments, a designation that includes mixed-use developments. It represents a dangerous shift in power away from local cities and their electorates towards development interests without any guarantee that affordable housing will be built.
SB 592 Implications
SB 592 would affect all cities in California, potentially exposing some municipalities to a barrage of appeals and lawsuits. Yet the bill provides cities no additional support. Smaller cities with limited resources may struggle to expedite the approval processes as required by the bill. They may also struggle to defend themselves against litigation. Under SB 592, municipalities may not disapprove housing developments for very low-, low-, or moderate-income households unless at least one of the following is true:
- The local agency has already fulfilled its share of the regional housing need allocation for locally specified household incomes.
- The housing development would have “objective” adverse impact on public health or safety, and there is no feasible way to mitigate these impacts.
- Other applicable state or federal laws prohibit the development and cannot be avoided.
- The housing development is on land zoned for agriculture or resource preservation or does not have adequate water or wastewater facilities.
- The housing development is inconsistent with both the site’s existing zoning and the general plan land use designation. This condition may only be used as grounds for denial if the site has not been identified as a suitable/available site for very low-, low-, or moderate-income households even if the existing zoning is inconsistent. Local agencies that have not identified suitable sites for this type of housing may not use inconsistency with existing zoning or the general plan as a basis of denial.