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Tackling California’s housing affordability and supply crisis requires fresh, new approaches – and close collaborations to achieve them. That goes not just for policymakers but for advocates of different backgrounds, including ourselves. We recognize that to create a California with homes for all, we need to think, act and do business differently.
California needs to add more homes, especially homes that are affordable to families struggling the most to make ends meet. For these families, we are 1.4 million homes short. About two-thirds of the 2 million renter households classified as very low-income are considered severely rent burdened, paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent and leaving little left over for other necessities, like healthcare, food and transportation.
We agree that building more homes is essential for meeting overall demand. But we also agree that a primary way to serve those with the lowest incomes – low-wage workers, seniors, people with disabilities and people experiencing homelessness – is by creating more permanently affordable housing. And California’s policymakers need to take the lead.
To their credit, Gov. Gavin Newsom and our state Legislature set aside a historic amount of funding in the 2019 budget for affordable housing and homelessness and enacted a number of impactful bills. These bills included strengthening an existing law requiring cities and counties to prioritize public land for affordable housing development and another that provides incentives to developers to build affordable housing.
But the scale of the problem requires ongoing investments and even more significant reforms to the way we use land. This year, the governor provided a one-time expansion of a key affordable housing funding program – $500 million for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. We need a permanent expansion.
In 2012, we lost the single largest ongoing source of funding to build affordable housing – Redevelopment, which provided up to $2 billion every year. We need to replace – and increase – that funding. And we need to make it easier for affordable housing developers to avoid NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) opposition, especially near transit and job centers.
Other important reforms include streamlining the bureaucratic permitting processes designed to grind construction cranes to a halt, lessening onerous requirements such as parking minimums, and getting rid of outdated zoning ordinances, including those that were historically motivated by racism.
These are common sense solutions that advocates of all walks of life can agree upon and will go a long way toward ending California’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis. We look forward to working collaboratively with the governor, the Legislature and critical allies in 2020 to turn the tide and truly make California a place with affordable homes for all.