Due mostly to construction challenges, California’s housing affordability and shortage are noted as one of the country’s most severe. Construction has continually failed to meet housing production targets for more than a decade, underproducing roughly 3.4 million housing units from 2000 to 2015, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Sacramento wants to make the process simplified and streamlined. Called the 2040 General Plan Update, Sacramento’s housing goals include the construction of 72,000 new homes and 80,000 new jobs over the next 20 years. In the plan, an 8-year Housing Strategy will aim to address overall housing production, the number of affordable units, and promote accessory dwelling units.
Streamlining the Approval Process
In 2017 California passed SB-35, allowing Sacramento to become the first city in the state to implement “ministerial approval” of multi-unit housing projects, which allows infill housing projects up to 200 units to bypass public hearings and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This approval option is key to streamlining the project approval process, and is assisted by creating objective development and design standards. If a project meets the objective standards, it has 60-90 days to be approved. SB-35 also mandates that the design review or public oversight be objective and focused on streamlining projects. At the start of 2021, the city has four to five affordable housing projects in the works.
Addressing “Missing Middle Housing”
In Sacramento, about 70% of land zoned residential — or 43% of all city land existing — is for single-family homes only. Sacramento city staff questioned if this was the best way to use land while trying to meet the goals of the city’s Housing Strategy. In answering this question, a key initiative of the General Plan Update now allows additional “missing middle housing” — duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes — in single-family zoned areas.