Affordable Housing on Faith and Higher Education Lands Act of 2023

Also known as Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), the Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act was enacted to facilitate the development of affordable housing on properties owned by religious organizations and higher education institutions. The intent is to streamline the approval process for affordable housing projects on such lands by providing “by-right” approval.

A streamlined approval process for affordable housing developments on land owned by religious organizations and higher education institutions. This means that eligible projects meeting certain criteria would be entitled to approval without going through the usual discretionary review processes, such as public hearings or local government approvals.

In part, California Government Code §65913.13(c), that provided there are no inconsistencies with a local government’s general plan, specific plan, zoning ordinance, or regulation, upon the request of an applicant, a housing development project shall be a use by right, if at least the following criteria, including other not included here, are satisfied:

  • The development is located on land owned on or before January 1, 2024, by an independent institution of higher education or a religious institution;
  • The development is not adjoined to any site where more than one-third of the square footage on the site is dedicated to light industrial use;
  • The housing units on the development site are not located within 1,200 feet of a site that is currently, or where the most recent permitted use was a heavy industrial use;
  • For a site where multifamily housing is not an existing permitted use, the housing units on the development site are not located within 3,200 feet of a facility that actively extracts or refines oil or natural gas;
  • One hundred percent of the development project’s total units, exclusive of a manager’s unit or units, are for lower income households, except that up to 20 percent of the total units in the development may be for moderate-income households, and 5 percent of the units may be for staff of the independent institution of higher education or religious institution that owns the land;
  • Affordable units must be deed-restricted for that purpose for 55 years for rental properties and 45 years for properties that can be owned.

According to a 2020 report by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation of UC Berkeley, “…100% affordable-housing projects located on land owned by FBOs [faith-based organizations] and nonprofit colleges will go through a ministerial process, bypassing the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) and subjective local design standards.”

This legislation seems to guarantee “by-right” approval of projects so long as they are consistent with all objective standards of the jurisdiction and comply with listed environmental protections.

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Disclaimer: Every situation is different and particular facts may vary thereby changing or altering a possible course of action or conclusion. The information contained herein is intended to be general in nature as laws vary between federal, state, counties, and municipalities and therefore may not apply to any given matter. This information is not intended to be legal advice or relied upon as a legal opinion, course of action, accounting, tax, or other professional services. You should consult the proper legal or professional advisor knowledgeable in the area that pertains to your particular situation.

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