Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation that will make it easier for religious institutions and nonprofit colleges in the state to turn their properties and parking lots into low-income housing, the Associated Press reported.
Nearly one-third of all homeless in the US live in California. The ongoing homeless crisis prompted a movement among religious groups in multiple California cities called “YIGBY” or “Yes in God’s Backyard.”
However, church groups and nonprofit colleges face a great deal of red tape when trying to convert surplus property and underused parking lots into housing since their land is not zoned for residential use.
The measure rezones land owned by churches, synagogues, mosques, and nonprofit colleges to permit affordable housing. With the legislation signed into law, starting next year, these organizations can bypass most local rules on permitting and environmental review that are often costly and time-consuming.
The law will sunset in 2036.
Supporters of the new law say it will be another tool to help provide much-needed housing in California.
According to a recent study by UC Berkeley, California religious institutions and college campuses own over 170,000 acres of land that would now be eligible for low-income housing under the law.
Some California cities objected to the legislation, arguing that it would take control of housing developments away from local authorities.
Governor Newsom also signed another housing bill that will extend a law that streamlines rules on housing projects that had already resulted in the construction of thousands of homes in the state. The law was set to expire in 2026. But under the new legislation, it will remain in place until 2036.
On the same day Newsom signed the two bills into law, his administration announced the location of the first group of homes the governor vowed to build in four California cities to address the homeless crisis.