California's concern for adequate housing for its residents was first established by the State Tenement House Act in 1909. The Act regulated only tenements such as apartment houses and hotels within cities. In 1913, the Commission of Immigration and Housing became the enforcement agency for the Tenement House Act.
The first law to address dwellings was the State Dwelling House Act enacted by the Legislature in 1917. In 1923, the State Tenement House Act, the State Hotel and Lodging Act, and the State Dwelling House Act were combined into the State Housing Act with the enforcement responsibility given to the Commission of Immigration and Housing.
In 1927, the Division of Immigration and Housing within the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations was created and later named, in 1945, the Division of Housing, the forerunner of the Division of Building and Housing Standards.
In 1951, outdated, restrictive sections were repealed and substituted with more modern concepts and material ratings. In addition, this revision extended to local enforcement agencies within the State having broad discretionary powers in approving alternate materials or methods of construction not prescribed by the Act. This moved the Act from its previous position as a specification code to a performance code.
In 1961, the State Housing Act was repealed and the State Housing Law was enacted. Dwellings, wherever located in the state, were constructed subject to provisions of the State Housing Law. The new law established authority for the Commission of Immigration and Housing to adopt rules and regulations applicable to apartment houses, hotels, and dwellings to carry out the legislative intent.
In 1965, the Commission of Housing and Community Development was created. The Division of Housing within the Department of Industrial Relations, along with all its duties, powers, responsibilities and jurisdictions, was placed in a new Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
In 1970, the California Legislature made a finding that uniformity in building standards throughout the state is a matter of statewide interest and concern since it would reduce housing costs and increase the efficiency of the private housing construction industry. To assure uniform standards, the legislature enacted Health and Safety Code Section 17958 which required the local governing bodies to enact ordinances imposing the same building standards as those adopted by the Department. Other provisions in this same legislative bill allowed local governments to modify the state standards provided the local government made specific findings of need.
In 1982, the Commission was eliminated and its powers were vested in HCD. In August 1982, HCD adopted the first regulations requiring adaptability and accessibility provisions accommodating persons with disabilities in newly constructed apartment houses containing five or more dwelling units. However, due to technical issues requiring additional regulatory action, these regulations did not become effective at the state level until September 15, 1984 or by default on September 15, 1985.
In the 1980s, HCD worked with building officials, building industry associations, other state agencies and representatives of the disabled community, to develop building standards requiring accessibility features in specific residential buildings. The impetus for adopting such regulations for housing was the enactment of federal laws, known as the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. Designers, builders, and code enforcement agencies needed assistance meeting the requirements of the federal laws and implementing guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The accessibility regulations adopted by HCD are currently in place in the California Code of Regulations, Title 24, Part 2, known as California Building Code. These building standards apply to newly constructed multifamily dwelling units in buildings having three or more dwelling units and four or more condominium dwelling units.