Tassafaronga Village mixed-incoming housing in Oakland, CA. (Photo Credit: Mark Hogan/Flickr)
“Houses are where jobs go to sleep at night.” So goes an old housing industry adage—one that presents a unique challenge in California, home to both the most expensive housing prices in the country and one of the fastest-growing job markets, as well.
The super-charged recovery now jolting some parts of the state—with rents and home prices rising rapidly—may be positive signs of an economy getting back on its feet. But with wages remaining stagnant for middle- and low-income families, the recovery is also threatening to leave many working Californians behind—and, increasingly, without an affordable place to call home.
The California Economic Summit’s Housing Action Team has made raising awareness about this burgeoning crisis a top priority this year, and in a letter to the new Assembly Speaker last week (PDF), Summit leaders cheered a provision in the Assembly version of the state budget that will set aside $200 million this year for the “construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition” of permanent, affordable rental housing. The letter emphasized the importance of funding programs in both urban and rural communities sometimes overlooked in budget negotiations.
When the full Assembly approved these provisions and the Legislature’s conference committee began meeting this week, the Summit followed up with letter to the committee’s leaders (PDF), as well.
First step toward permanent source of funding
These efforts to secure support in the state budget are only the first step toward the Housing Team’s ultimate goal: creating a permanent source of funding for affordable housing in California. But with the state currently making almost no investments at all in affordable housing—for the first time in 30 years—the Summit has welcomed the Assembly budget proposal as a good start.
“The California Economic Summit seeks to advance the triple bottom line: simultaneously encouraging economic growth, improving environmental quality, and increasing opportunity for all Californians,” the Summit’s letter to the Assembly Speaker said. “Funding for affordable multi-family housing is an important step to making progress toward this goal.”
The Summit’s letter was signed by the following members of the Housing Action Team:
- Cathy Creswell, Housing Team co-lead, former acting director, California Department of Housing and Community Development
- David Smith, Housing Team co-lead, attorney, Stice & Block LLP
- Cesar Covarrubias, executive director, The Kennedy Commission
- Lucy Dunn, president and CEO, Orange County Business Council
- Deacon Michael A. Evans, executive director, Anderson-Cottonwood Christian Assistance, Inc.
- Meea Kang, president, Domus Development
- Michael Manchak, president and CEO, Economic Vitality Corporation
- Ray Pearl, executive director, California Housing Consortium
Unintended consequences of the recovery
With budget negotiations beginning in earnest this week, members of the Summit are continuing to encourage state leaders to consider a separate proposal to support the development of affordable housing near transit stations using cap-and-trade revenues—an idea advanced last month by Sen. Steinberg that could provide over $1 billion a year for housing in the years to come.
Both funding sources could help address the unintended consequences of California’s economic recovery, which is putting new obstacles between struggling families and affordable homes. “Leaders throughout California are realizing the need to act deliberately to be competitive in the global marketplace,” as the Summit’s letter this week put it. “Since 2010, a million jobs have been created in the state, but for many Californians, the recession is still a grim reality—and the gap between rich and poor is expanding.”
As the deadline for passing the budget approaches, the Summit will continue to remind lawmakers of opportunities they have to close it.