Governor signs bills to reduce regulatory barriers to fight homelessness

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gavin newsom

Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a series of bills to address the national crisis of homelessness and assist city and county governments by removing regulatory barriers to fight homelessness.

The bills build on the $1 billion investment made in the budget, and new legal authority that makes it easier for cities and counties to build emergency shelters.

The governor signed legislation that provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and shelters in the City of Los Angeles. The new laws will also give Alameda County, Orange County, the cities within those counties, and San Jose, the ability to expedite the construction of emergency shelters upon declaring a shelter crisis.

The governor’s 2019-2020 budget included: $650 million to local governments for homelessness emergency aid; $120 million for expanded Whole Person Care services;  $150 million for strategies to address the shortage of mental health professionals in the public mental health system; $25 million for Supplemental Security Income advocacy; $40 million for student rapid rehousing and basic needs initiatives for students in the University of California and California State University systems; $20 million in legal assistance for eviction prevention; over $400 million to increase grants to families in the CalWORKs program; and  budget more than doubles the investment in the Cal-EITC Working Families Tax Credit to $1 billion, which will increase the number of participating households from 2 million to 3 million, lifting some out of poverty.

The following bills were signed into law by the governor:

AB 58 (Rivas) – This bill requires the governor to appoint a representative from the California Department of Education (CDE) to the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council.

AB 139 (Quirk-Silva) – This bill updates the requirements of local governments’ housing plans to address the needs of the homeless crisis, specifically by changing the criterion for assessing the need for emergency shelters and housing to a regional level, and requiring that to be accounted for as part of the Housing Element of a city or county’s General Plan.

AB 143 (Quirk-Silva) – This bill adds Alameda County, Orange County, all of the cities within those counties, and the City of San Jose to the list of jurisdictions authorized to declare a shelter crisis, which permits the suspension of state health, planning and zoning, and safety standards; those jurisdictions must then adopt a local ordinance for the design and operation of homeless shelters, which must be approved by HCD. The bill also requires these jurisdictions to develop plans to address the shelter crisis, including how to transition residents from homeless shelters to permanent supportive housing.

AB 728 (Santiago) – Previous legislation gave counties the authority to create Multidisciplinary Personnel Teams (MDTs) for homeless adults and families to facilitate the expedited identification, assessment, and linkage of homeless individuals to housing and supportive services, and allow provider agencies to share confidential information for those purposes to ensure continuity of care. This bill creates a five-year pilot program in the following counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Clara and Ventura) to expand the scope of an MDR to include serving individuals who are at risk of homelessness. The program would sunset on January 1, 2025.

AB 761 (Nazarian) – This bill allows, at the sole discretion of the Adjutant General, the use of any armory deemed vacant by the California Military Department throughout the year by the county or city in which the armory is located for the purpose of providing temporary shelter from hazardous weather conditions for homeless persons.

AB 1188 (Gabriel) – This bill creates a legal framework allowing a tenant, with the written approval of the owner or landlord, to take in a person who is at risk of homelessness. It includes a number of protections for both the landlord and tenant, including the ability for the tenant to remove the person at risk of homelessness on short notice.

AB 1197 (Santiago) – This bill provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and shelters in the City of Los Angeles.

AB 1235 (Chu) – This bill renames the runaway and homeless youth shelters run by the Department of Social Services as “youth homelessness and prevention centers,” expands the categories of youth for which the centers are required to provide services to also include youth at risk of homelessness and youth exhibiting status offender behavior, and expands the time a youth can stay in the center from 21 to 90 days.

AB 1745 (Kalra) – Earlier legislation authorized San Jose to build and operate emergency bridge housing for the homeless during a declared shelter crisis, and required that each person housed in the bridge housing be placed in an affordable housing unit. This bill extends the sunset date from January 1, 2022 to January 1, 2025, for San Jose to meet these obligations.

SB 211 (Beall) – This bill authorizes Caltrans to lease its property to local governments for the purpose of an emergency shelter or feeding program for $1 per month plus administrative fees.

SB 450 (Umberg) – This bill provides a CEQA exemption until January 2025 for hotels converted to supportive housing.

SB 687 (Rubio) – This bill requires the Governor to appoint a representative of the state public higher education system to the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council.

SB 744 (Caballero) – This bill provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and No Place Like Home projects.

“Homelessness is a national emergency that demands more than just words, it demands action. State government is now doing more than ever before to help local governments fight homelessness, expand proven programs and speed up rehousing. And just this month, the Legislature passed the strongest package of statewide renter and anti-eviction protections in the country — a top priority for this Administration that will protect Californians from unfair evictions and rent gouging that have contributed to this crisis,” Gov. Newsom stated.

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