When it comes to building new homes throughout the state, the time it takes to go from idea to construction can take more than a year in most cases, partly due to the time-consuming process of meeting requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The state was already suffering from a housing shortage when the Camp Fire in Butte County destroyed entire towns and displaced thousands of people. Some have chosen to rebuild in the impacted area, while others look elsewhere around the region to restart. Assembly Bill 430, authored by local Assemblyman James Gallagher and signed into law, will help eliminate some of the barriers to building and speed up the process of development over the next several years.

“I think this is going to be a helpful tool to our communities in providing more housing,” Gallagher said. “Obviously, the primary focus was more housing for people displaced by the Camp Fire, but we know that the entire state is experiencing a housing crisis, so we do need to build more housing in the region to meet those needs. I think this will be a useful tool for these cities to build housing that they’ve already planned for.”

The bill, which goes into effect in January and will last for five years, will benefit the cities of Biggs, Corning, Gridley, Live Oak, Orland, Oroville, Willows and Yuba City – all of which have been landing spots for survivors of the Camp Fire. 

The change in law essentially provides a complete exemption for the CEQA process in those communities in areas that officials have already set aside for future growth and housing in their general plans. Gallagher said jurisdictions have to do a CEQA analysis for areas highlighted for future growth before the general plan can be approved anyway, so this allows developers to expedite the process that can take a minimum of 18 months and can be costly. 

In a previous article, Orland City Manager Pete Carr said the city has welcomed many Camp Fire survivors and several have chosen to stay in the area.

“AB 430 helps us to be able to more quickly get new housing approved,” Carr said.

Gallagher said there are people who plan to rebuild or have already started to in fire-impacted towns like Paradise, but others have decided to look elsewhere, whether it be because of the significant costs to rebuild or because of difficulties in finding a fire insurance policy, among other things. His housing bill is more geared toward helping those displaced that are looking to rebuild elsewhere in the region.

“A lot of those displaced are living in surrounding communities and are living with family members or in hotels temporarily that want to get into a more permanent home. However, there are none, so we are trying to meet that demand for folks who don’t want to rebuild in places like Paradise by beefing up the housing stock,” Gallagher said. 

Wayne Peabody, Willows city manager, said in a previous article that part of the problem is that Willows hasn’t had much infrastructure being built and reducing some of the regulatory stuff for developers could help cut through the red tape. 

“(AB 430) is an available tool and hopefully that will be enough of an incentive for developers and home builders to say, ‘we’ll go and make that investment,’” Gallagher said. “So, we’ll do what we can to get the word out.” 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill on Oct. 11. 

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