The California State Assembly supported a measure to remove vestiges of redlining and segregation that have hindered affordable and supportive housing. AB 721, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, will invalidate density restrictions in housing covenants that do not conform with local zoning.

“We know racial restrictions in housing covenants go against our values as Californians. The same is true about density restrictions that aim to keep low-income and communities of color out of certain neighborhoods.”

Court decisions and the California Legislature have made racially restrictive covenants unenforceable. However, the racial restrictions are often contained in longer covenant documents with restrictions on the size and number of units allowed, which can act as clear barriers to the development of affordable and supportive housing. The time and expense needed to remove the covenants deter developers from acquiring and developing on these otherwise ideal project sites.

AB 721 will clarify that density restrictions in private covenants cannot be used to curtail affordable and supportive housing. The measure allows for the owner of a property who commits to building 100% affordable units for lower income household may build as many units as the local zoning code allows. AB 721 also preserves and strengthens local control by restricting private landowners from overriding local zoning.

“Affordable housing developers have to walk away from ideal project sites because of these private covenants that date back to the 1930s. We need to make sure these restrictions don’t continue to stand in the way of affordable housing production.”

Submitted by Guy W. Strahl