Legislature Strengthens California's 'Anti-NIMBY' Law

Legislature Strengthens California's 'Anti-NIMBY' Law

Readers may recall the Housing Accountability Act, a little-known state law that made headlines last year in a lawsuit against Lafayette. The California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA) formed to sue the East Bay suburb after it goaded a developer into downsizing a housing project from a 300-unit apartment complex into 44 single-family homes. In its current form, the law gives standing to applicants and potential tenants to sue a municipality for rejecting a zoning-compliant housing project for less-than-“objective” standards.

The California State Legislature passed an amendment on Tuesday to expand the power of this law. Under new language introduced by Assemblymember Tom Daly, organizations representing tenants and housing projects can also sue to enforce the law.

Housing groups around the state have praised the amendment as a boon to their advocacy efforts. In a letter supporting the bill, the California Apartment Association noted that “[o]ne of the most significant barriers to the construction of new affordable housing is unjustified local resistance from NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) groups.” They went on to describe the amendment as applying “appropriate pressure” to municipalities hesitant to more housing in the midst of a statewide shortage. 

Ryan Patterson, legal counsel for CaRLA in the Lafayette suit, was cautiously optimistic. When reached by email, he offered the following comment: “Previously, nonprofit housing organizations lacked standing to file lawsuits on their own behalf. Although its scope is modest, this law gives advocacy organizations a new tool to support housing development proposals.”

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