New Bill Would Clarify Builder’s Remedy Rules

A law aimed at coaxing cities to plan for more affordable housing has been causing confusion for local governments and developers alike. State lawmakers could soon clarify its perimeters, giving the law more teeth and speeding up implementation.

The law is known as builder’s remedy, and it’s part of the Housing Accountability Act. It says cities that fail to submit compliant housing plans lose their zoning authority over projects that contain a certain percentage of affordable housing. These projects can bypass the typical process and receive automatic approval – at least in theory.

There are questions about when the law does and does not apply. That uncertainty can delay the use of builder’s remedy, often tying the issue up in the courts.

A bill sponsored by Attorney General Rob Bonta and introduced Tuesday by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) would change that. AB 1893 would clarify a number of rules surrounding builder’s remedy. 

On the one hand, the bill would limit the size of allowable projects (double to triple the amount of current density, depending on the area). It would also prohibit developments on industrial or industrial-adjacent land. On the other hand, it would reduce the percentage of affordable housing required for builder’s remedy projects from 20% to 10%. For buildings with 10 or fewer units, builder’s remedy could be used even when there is no affordable housing component at all.

In effect, AB 1893 would make it easier to use the builder’s remedy provision and spur development in jurisdictions that don’t have an approved housing element.

“It’s going to take all of us to solve our housing crisis, and AB 1893 will require all cities and counties to be a part of the solution,” said Wicks. “The message to local jurisdictions is clear: the days of shirking your responsibility to your neighbors are over.”