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Assemblymember Ward Introduces the Housing and Climate Solutions Act

AB 68 Aligns Housing and Climate Goals, Streamlines Homes Near Jobs, Schools, Transit; Protects Residents from Wildfires and Floods

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Assemblymember Chris Ward today introduced the Housing and Climate Solutions Act, legislation that will advance California’s history of strong climate leadership by directly linking housing policy and the state’s response to climate change.  

The bill, AB 68, will make it faster and easier to build more homes near jobs, schools, transit, and other resources, while adding provisions to state law that will help protect Californians from increasingly frequent and severe wildfires and floods. AB 68 includes measures to help reduce the pollution that causes climate change; protect open lands that remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere; and make our communities more resilient to fires, floods, drought, and other climate impacts. 

“Our housing and climate crises are intertwined, and our solutions must be too,” said Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego). “Our current land use policies have left unchecked sprawl that puts more Californians in harm’s way, increases climate pollution, and strains infrastructure. AB 68 will make sure local governments follow their existing plans to build needed infill housing in climate-safe areas, and enable more Californians to live in walkable neighborhoods, near jobs, schools, and transit.” 

AB 68 builds on the planning local governments have already done to identify priority locations for new housing in their Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS), which were required as a part of earlier state reforms. These areas — along with high-opportunity neighborhoods within walking distance of parks, schools, transit, grocery stores and other resources — will receive streamlined, fast-tracked housing approvals for new multi-family housing that is naturally more affordable for lower- and middle-income Californians. 

The bill also requires local governments to prioritize new housing within existing communities before allowing sprawl into critical natural and working lands that are vital resources for climate resilience. 

Between 1990 and 2010, half of all new housing development in California took place at the boundary of wildland areas, which are more susceptible to wildfires. A quarter of Californians now live in areas that are considered high risk for a catastrophic fire. 

“Too many Californians have been forced to live in areas that are in the crosshairs of catastrophic climate impacts,” said Melissa Breach, Chief Operating Officer of California YIMBY. “Our housing policies should minimize risk and protect our residents – but instead, they’re adding fuel to the fire. We have to deprioritize building homes in hazard zones and instead prioritize housing closer to jobs and services, so people can spend more time with their families – and less time in polluting traffic. AB 68 will ensure we build safe and affordable homes in our communities and give more Californians access to a climate-safe future.” 

“It shouldn’t be surprising to see an environmental conservation organization co-sponsoring a housing bill. This legislation reflects the urgent need to reach out across sectors to meet California’s housing needs in climate-smart locations,” said Liz O’Donoghue, Director of Sustainable & Resilient Communities Strategy, The Nature Conservancy. “California is the most populous and most ecologically diverse state in the US, and the way cities and communities grow has an enormous impact on people and nature. AB 68 is an opportunity for California to meet its housing needs and ensure cities grow with nature and a changing climate in mind. The bill thoughtfully considers where we build new homes and provides incentives to build in safe and sustainable locations. We look forward to working with Assemblymember Ward and California YIMBY to advance a vision for California that is resilient to climate change, protects biodiversity, and advances safe housing for all.”

“The scarcity of housing in existing walkable neighborhoods, close to schools, parks, transit and jobs, has increasingly left working families - especially people of color — with no choice but to move to remote areas that are far from opportunities and resources, and more susceptible to wildfires and floods,” said Ricardo Flores, LISC San Diego. “Lower-income Californians and communities of color are 50% more vulnerable to the long-term destructive effects of wildfire. AB 68 will enable more people at all income levels to live where they want to live, in places that are safer.”