Density Bonus Law Gets an Extra Boost in 2024 Via AB1287

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California’s Density Bonus Law was originally enacted in 1989, but has gained traction in recent years as a result of California’s well known housing crisis. Generally speaking, the Density Bonus Law was enacted as an incentive to developers to build low-income housing; among other things, if developers agree to restrict a percentage of a 5+ residential unit project to a certain income level, they’re permitted to construct additional units in the project, notwithstanding local zoning requirements. That law has evolved significantly over the past decade. Not only has the State expanded the maximum allowable project density bonus under a variety of income restriction options, but it also requires local government to give qualifying projects waivers of otherwise applicable development standards.

What is the Density Bonus Law?

At present, the Density Bonus Law allows a project to exceed maximum local density upon designation of a certain percentage of the project’s residential rental or for sale units to either “Very Low Income,” “Low Income,” or “Moderate Income” households, as those terms are defined in the law. For example, say local zoning standards provide for a maximum of 20 residential units on a particular parcel. A developer could increase the otherwise allowable project density as follows: Upon designation of 24% of the proposed 20 units as Low Income, they are permitted a 50% density bonus on the overall project. The end result would be a 30-unit project, 5 of which are restricted for Low Income households. That same developer would also be permitted to choose from various waivers, incentives, or concessions for that project, as long as there was no specific, adverse impact on health and safety as a result, and which could not be mitigated.

In AB 1287, effective this year, the Legislature doubled down on allowable density bonus by granting even more units to developers willing to designate the maximum percentages available to them under the law. For those developers, local government is required to grant an additional density bonus, on top of the original one. Taking our above example, because our developer designated the law’s maximum 24% of Low Income units to the project, AB 1287 permits that developer to receive an additional 50% density bonus (calculated from the base density of 20 units) if they designate an additional 15% of the project to Moderate Income households. In this case, and notwithstanding the local maximum density of 20 units, the developer can now build a 40-unit project on that parcel, with 5 units restricted to Low Income households, and 3 units restricted to Moderate Income households—a win-win for the developer and Californians alike.

Contact a Land Use Attorney Today

If you are curious about learning more about California’s Density Bonus Law and how it might apply to your project contact Emily Brough at Zacks & Freedman, PC for guidance.

Neither this website nor this post are intended to create an attorney-client relationship.