In God’s back yard: California’s religious bodies to start building homes

A homeless person’s encampment photographed last year in front of a parked Tesla in San Francisco’s Mission District (Carmen Esparza Amoux/CC BY-SA 4.0)
Starting next year, churches, mosques, and synagogues in California will be able to build social housing on land they own without environmental or other local planning reviews.

A law colloquially known as YIGBY, short for “Yes In God’s Back Yard”, was signed last week by Governor Gavin Newsom to tackle high levels of homelessness in the state, which contains a third of all America’s unhoused people.

Non-profit colleges are included in the bill, formally called SB 4. It says they can start building in 2024.

CBS news reports that the homeless crisis had sparked the YIGBY movement among religious institutions to offer low-cost housing.

They have often faced hurdles in converting their surplus land into housing because it is not zoned for residential use.

A recent study by the University of California, Berkeley, estimated that religious and higher education campuses have 68,800ha of land that would be made eligible for housing construction under the bill.

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