State Bill 4 Paves the Way for More Affordable Housing in California

Mercy Housing has a long history of partnering with faith-based organizations to convert their land into affordable housing communities. An exciting new law, the Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act, will make this kind of partnership even more effective in 2024.

Thanks to the hard work of affordable housing advocates, California Governor Newsom signed a welcome slate of new housing laws at the end of the 2022-2023 legislative session. State Bill 4, authored by State Senator Scott Wiener and also known as the Affordable Housing on Faith Lands and Higher Education Lands Act, is particularly promising in that it streamlines the approvals process for 100% affordable housing developed on land owned by faith-based organizations or nonprofit colleges.

Sisters of St Joseph of Orange Motherhouse
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange in Orange County are partnering with Mercy Housing California on the conversion of their historic Motherhouse building into affordable senior housing.

“California’s faith leaders of all denominations have been leaders in the fight against housing insecurity, and this law gives them a powerful new tool,” said Mercy Housing California President Doug Shoemaker. “We’re looking forward to partnering with more congregations who are ready to turn underused land into high-quality affordable homes.”

“As Sisters of St. Joseph, we are called to reach out to serve the dear neighbor. We are welcoming of those in need today. Our renovated Motherhouse will offer a warm welcome, hospitality, and a home for seniors,” said Sister Diane Hejna of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. “It is our hope that, thanks to this thoughtful policy, more congregations will have the opportunity to follow suit and create welcoming affordable housing on the lands they own.”

A recent report from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center found that faith-based organizations and nonprofit colleges own around 171,000 acres of potentially developable land throughout California that could be developed into affordable housing using SB 4. An efficient approvals process can make a big difference in the overall timeline and cost of a housing development, making streamlining bills such as SB 4 critically important in addressing our affordable housing shortage.

Mercy Housing California congratulates our statewide coalition of affordable housing partners on a productive year. Our teams look forward to leveraging the success of SB 4 and other important policy tools to build more equitable, resilient housing communities.