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California Legislature

Key California housing legislation still lacks votes

Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) with Gov. Jerry Brown. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) with Gov. Jerry Brown. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

With less than three days left before state lawmakers adjourn for the year, supporters of legislation to address California’s housing affordability crisis still lack the votes to pass a key bill.

Senate Bill 2 from Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) would charge a $75 fee on mortgage refinances and other real estate transactions aside from home and commercial property sales. The bill would raise an estimated $250 million a year to help finance low-income housing developments. It requires a two-thirds supermajority vote in both houses of the Legislature to pass.

Assuming no Republicans back the measure, every Democrat has to vote yes. And multiple Democrats in the Assembly who could potentially face tough reelection battles next year remain wary.

The lack of action on SB 2 has held up potentially a dozen or more other housing bills, including Senate Bill 3, a $4-billion bond to fund housing developments on the 2018 statewide ballot, and Senate Bill 35, which would ease some local regulations on home building.

Housing advocates would like to see SB 2 put to a vote even if its passage isn’t guaranteed, if only to see which legislators are opposed.

“It’s tough and we understand why Sen. Atkins wants to fight for the last vote,” said Michael Lane, policy director for the Non-Profit Housing Assn. of Northern California.

If SB 2 doesn’t pass, Lane said he’s hoping its failure won’t torpedo the remainder of the housing bills. Last year, major housing legislation crumbled after Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers couldn’t agree on a package to spend more money on low-income housing subsidies while also relaxing local housing regulations.

“There’s no way they can back out of this and have another faceplant,” Lane said.

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