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Changes to key housing bill will give local governments in California more control over the money

State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Cities and counties will have more control over money designed to help the state combat its housing affordability crisis under amendments to key legislation unveiled Tuesday.

SB 2 from state Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) would charge a $75 fee on mortgage refinances and other real estate transactions and funnel the money to housing subsides. The fee, which would raise roughly $250 million a year, wouldn’t be charged on home or commercial property sales.

Under the changes made to the bill Tuesday, local governments will receive half the money in the first year to update blueprints that guide neighborhood development to speed up community planning. The state Department of Housing and Community Development would receive the remainder to fund homeless housing efforts. In later years, the state would award most of the dollars to cities and counties to finance the construction of low-income housing development.  

The changes are designed to address concerns from some skeptical Democrats in the Assembly about raising fees on homeowners. The measure requires a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass and is considered the most fragile of the main bills in a package of legislation aimed at addressing the state’s housing problems

At a news conference Monday before the amendments were released, Atkins said she had not yet secured enough support for her bill but was working on changes. The state’s housing problems, she said, required lawmakers to act now.

“If we don't get started in a serious way with each and every one of these pieces of legislation, we will have more than a crisis on our hands,” Atkins said. “We will have a humanitarian crisis of proportions you have never seen.”

Changes to other bills in the housing package also were released Tuesday morning. They were memorialized in a deal announced Monday evening between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders to support a $4-billion bond on the 2018 ballot to fund low-income housing projects and subsidize home loans for veterans. There also were minor changes to a bill designed to ease local regulations on home building.

Lawmakers could take up all the housing bills as soon as Friday. But Brown and top lawmakers have not announced they’ve reached an agreement on an entire package, nor that they’ve secured the votes for it to pass.

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