Local housing policies across California: Results of a new statewide survey

College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley, February 4, 2019

The Terner Center’s “residential land use survey [was conducted] in California from August 2017 to October 2018.” The survey analyzed responses from “252 incorporated places and 19 unincorporated county areas [to] questions on local zoning, approval processes, affordable housing policies, and rental regulations.” Here, from their 61-page descriptive report, are just a few “highlights [of] the survey findings” from the Executive Summary:

“Zoning

  • “… [v]ery little land is zoned to allow for multifamily housing.
  • “Exceptions to zoning regulations … are most commonly requested to reduce multifamily parking requirements or to increase how much housing can be built on a lot … .”
  • “Most jurisdictions allow for some type of by-right development … but cities often limit the size of by-right projects to five or fewer units. … ”
  • “About half of California jurisdictions report that they made their zoning codes less restrictive over time, but [roughly] 10 percent made their zoning codes more restrictive.

“Approval process

  • [While] “… project applications have a strong chance of approval, permitting, and completion … multifamily projects have somewhat lower success rates compared to single-family projects.
  • “… In many jurisdictions, fees vary so much that planners cannot effectively estimate the total costs of the fees for a development project.
  • [While] “… proposed housing developments attract both local citizen support and opposition, … planners indicate that elected officials almost always support residential development.

“Affordable housing policies

  • “Far more projects were built under local inclusionary policies than under state density bonus law.” Read more here.