What the Legislature Did —and Didn’t Do— This Year To Make Housing More Affordable
September 10, 2020
There were high hopes in Sacramento at the beginning of 2020 that this would be the “year of housing production”—with the Governor and Legislature making the same strong commitments to increasing access to affordable housing for the millions of Californians struggling to keep up with the rising rents.
When the legislative session concluded in August, these ambitions remained largely unfulfilled—largely due to the unprecedented strain on legislative business imposed by COVID-19.
All five of the bills in the State Senate’s housing package failed to advance—including several as time ran out in the waning minutes of the session—and more than a dozen other bills to open new sites to affordable housing and accelerate production did not make it to the Governor. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), said in early September: “The Legislature failed on housing this year.”
The state did take some noteworthy actions to support affordable housing during the pandemic: One Eden-supported bill, AB 2345 (Gonzalez), which would make it easier to build housing with higher percentages of units for low-income and extremely-low-income households, is now on the Governor’s desk. The state budget signed in June includes an extension of last year’s $500 million expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, one of the best tools the state has for funding new affordable housing. The state housing department is also pushing out an additional $600 million in grant funding through Project Homekey to acquire and rehabilitate hotels, motels, and vacant apartment buildings to provide housing for Californians experiencing homelessness.
In the final week of the session, state leaders also took action on another top Eden priority: keeping residents housed in the midst of the current public health crisis. The Governor signed a landmark bill to extend statewide eviction protections into the fall and winter, giving tenants some relief on making rent payments as they struggle with lost jobs and financial pressures caused by COVID-19.
Eden’s own Tenant Relief Fund has also helped more than 450 families get through this unprecedented time. You can support Eden residents by making a contribution today!
At a time when one out of every five Californians has filed for unemployment assistance, it has never been more important to keep the pressure on—especially with federal stimulus payments expiring at the end of July and the state unable to fill the gaps.
That’s why Eden is continuing to work with affordable housing partners across the country to promote a comprehensive relief proposal, Keep CA Housed, that will provide additional, much-needed financial assistance to renters—and include $1 billion in funding to help hundreds of thousands of essential affordable housing properties in California avoid default and remain operating during and after this crisis
Between now and the beginning of the next legislative session, advocates need to remind state leaders of the essential role affordable housing plays in improving people’s lives—and to highlight the steps the state can still take to increase access to this vital resource.
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