Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom toured UC Merced on Tuesday before speaking with students about their daily concerns, including affordable housing in Merced.
Lt. Gov. Newsom is on a tour of the state in the final week before Election Day on Tuesday, when voters will choose between him and Republican opponent John Cox.
Newsom spoke with mostly undergraduate students during an open discussion. More than one student brought up a topic that’s an issue for people across Merced — the availability of housing.
The state is producing about 100,000 housing units on an annual basis, Newsom said.
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“We need to do more like 400,000 units and that means a Marshall-like plan of new-housing production,” Newsom said. “Our goal is 3.5 million housing units over the next decade. We haven’t done that since the 1950s, in the terms of annual production.”
The lack of housing in Merced causes prices to rise, experts say, with a vacancy rate of about 1 percent. Building has also not kept pace with growth.
Renters in Merced who pay 30 percent or more of their income for housing are considered cost-burdened, which accounts for about half of Merced renters. About a quarter spend half of their income on rent, according to a report from Apartment List.
The 7,300-student UC Merced continues to expand with a goal to have room for 10,000 in two years, which is expected to add further stress to the rental market.
“We are committed to raising the bar, getting local government to align in terms of strategies and incentives to regionalize solutions,” Newsom said. “And ultimately manufacture the kind of growth we need in the housing sector.”
Newsom said his state tour is less about winning voters, saying people have likely made up their mind, but rather rallying people to go to the polls on Election Day.
Newsom’s strategy is to motivate Democrats to vote in the November general election and help national efforts to return the party to power in the House of Representatives. Democratic activists are targeting 10 California congressional seats currently held by Republicans, including seven in districts that went for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.
Newsom visited Merced College on Oct. 10, when advocates showed him an aging facility that needs help from the state to free up bond money.
The elections is Nov. 6.
The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.