Sierra Club California Publishes New Report Calling for More Affordable Housing

A new report from Sierra Club California outlines the factors that have led to our state’s housing crisis and its effects on California’s population and economy. The report summarizes recent housing studies and legislation that motivates housing development. It also offers recommendations to further reform state housing laws that can contribute to a comprehensive solution to California’s housing crisis.

The Sierra Club has been active in housing and related growth issues for several decades. The paper describes our long-standing policies that strongly support infill development and higher housing densities, social justice, reducing pollution, and preserving the natural environment. This report was written by Sierra Club California volunteer leaders who have expertise in planning and housing.

Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said in a statement: “Building enough affordable housing for California’s families and workers is one of the most important challenges facing California. State and local officials and elected officials need to work together to spur development of affordable and infill housing while upholding tenants’ rights, reducing emissions and protecting wildlands. It’s possible to achieve these goals, but it will require collaboration.”

The paper includes the following recommendations for policies that could and should be considered to help make affordable housing easier to build near jobs without displacing local residents or pushing more development into environmentally sensitive wildland areas:
Mandate that cities that fall behind in their state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals must rezone lands around transit stations.
    •    Reform the RHNA process by transforming it into a state planning program.
    •    Re-establish a more narrowly defined redevelopment-like program that focuses on creating affordable housing.
    •    Allow local affordable housing bonds to be passed by the voters by a simple majority, rather than a two-thirds majority.
    •    Support the repeal of the Hawkins-Costa Act to return to cities and counties the option of enacting rent eviction controls and rent stabilization measures.
    •    Mandate that local agencies reduce building and development fees for qualifying affordable housing projects.
    •    Develop incentive programs that encourage local agencies to adopt inclusionary housing ordinances that require housing projects to include affordable units.
    •    Plug the SB 375 loophole by requiring a direct link (and a finding of consistency) between the new smart growth principles of adopted Sustainable Community Strategy Plans and the local General Plans that guide all local growth decisions.
    •    Identify ways to help ensure local planning departments are adequately staffed and trained to implement existing measures that can accelerate housing production.
You can read and download the whole paper online at

Sierra Club California is the legislative and regulatory advocacy arm for Sierra Club chapters in California. This article originally appeared in the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter’s Yodeler.