Commentary: Let’s Seize Opportunity to Turn Tide on Housing Catastrophe

580 200 Ray Pearl & Lisa Hershey

(Photo Credit: Mike Linksvayer/Flickr)

The Legislature is back in session after a month-long recess, and housing advocacy organizations and partners are eager for action.

Why? We haven’t seen urgency from state leaders to act on the state’s housing crisis and an opportunity to make an affordable housing bond and other critical legislative solutions a reality in years.

Before the summer recess, Governor Jerry Brown, Pro Tem Kevin de Léon and Speaker Anthony Rendon vowed that when the Legislature returned, acting on the housing crisis would be their top priority and that a housing deal would include a general obligation bond, permanent funding source for affordable housing and regulatory reform.

It took tremendous effort for housing advocates to move the barometer with the Governor and legislative leaders to the point where they now outline the same key investment and reform elements for which we've advocated for years. We have tirelessly worked with leaders for permanent funding sources – as evident in Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 3 – and educated them on why it’s essential to building affordable homes for the families we know are struggling in our communities. 

Just last week, Speaker Rendon reiterated his commitment to housing, telling the Los Angeles Times that when it comes to a housing bond he is going to “negotiate for as high as we possibly can.” In a legislature fraught with competing priorities, a public pronouncement from the leader of the Assembly is significant.

We must seize the opportunity before us, building on the momentum of our leaders and continuing to push for the solutions we know will turn the tide on this housing catastrophe. We all know someone impacted by housing affordability. How can we not, when one in three Californians can’t afford their rent and 1.7 million households spend more than 50 percent of their incomes on housing costs? However, we must avoid the trap of feeling so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the crisis that legislators think the solutions in front of them won't be enough.

Instead, we need to continue to push our leaders to think big and act boldly by investing in at least a $6 billion bond – a proven, responsible investment that allows the state to quickly build affordable homes for families, seniors, veterans and farmworkers. A recent poll released earlier this month found voters strongly support a $6-9 billion housing bond, recognizing the need for bold action to bring affordable homes to their communities.

We also can’t forget the critical role of inclusionary policies that ensure all Californians can live in the communities where they work. Brutal hours-long commutes shouldn’t be the price one has to pay on top of rising home costs to live in California. The Legislature recognizes the economic gap created without inclusionary polices and has responded by advancing Assembly Bill 1505. This narrowly focused but vital bill must also be part of the housing package.

In the week ahead, we need to focus efforts on continuing to educate legislators on what the solutions before them can do, and avoid selling our collective efforts short. The housing catastrophe needs big solutions and bold action. Let’s stay focused on these opportunities that will benefit Californians for years to come.

Ray Pearl is the executive director of the California Housing Consortium. Lisa Hershey is executive director of Housing California.


Ray Pearl & Lisa Hershey

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