Close to Home: Investment in affordable housing willcreate safer communities
Providing affordable homes for Californians has many benefits. It generates jobs, supports business expansion, reduces crime, improves air quality and improves public health.
Sounds like a no-brainer. But the state needs to do more to help local governments tackle the state's devastating housing crisis.
California has seen a 69 percent overall decline in state and federal investment in production and preservation of affordable housing since the Great Recession in 2008. Yet Gov. Jerry Brown's 2017-18 budget plan makes no new investment in affordable home construction. We urgently need action from the state.
A new California Department of Housing and Community Development housing analysis finds that California families are facing a harder time finding a place to live than at any point in our history, and homeownership rates in California are at their lowest since the 1940s. More than 1.7 million Californians are paying more than half their income in rent - often leaving them struggling to pay for food, medicine, transportation and other fundamentals.
We at Eden Housing know firsthand what collaboration among government, private sector, nonprofit and community groups yields. In the North Coast region, we have 12 properties with more than 2,200 families and senior residents. Given the pressure on the housing market in the region, not only do we field calls every day from families desperate for a place to live, we have more than 20,000 households on our waiting lists statewide. More than 2,500 of those households are on our waiting lists in the North Bay.
We cannot keep ignoring the problem. The good news is that we can turn things around and create a California where hard-working families, children, seniors, veterans and vulnerable residents have a place to call home. Toward that end, there are two bills in the California Legislature that are worth considering.
One is a proposed $3 billion housing bond measure, co-authored by state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, which would be an important move forward. The measure needs a two-thirds majority in the Legislature and Brown's signature to make it to voters in November 2018.
The second, SB 2, by state Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would enable thousands of affordable rental homes to be built through a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents, capped at $225 per transaction. Sales of homes and commercial properties would be exempted.
AB 71 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, is another crucial bill that deserves local lawmakers' support. This legislation addresses an illogical housing policy that provides $300 million in tax help each year for vacation homeowners, while millions of Californians struggle to have a roof over their heads at all.
Yes, we provide a tax break for second homes, when many among us can't even have a first home. Ending this costly tax break would allow for thousands to have an affordable apartment or home while protecting the mortgage interest deduction crucial for families to afford their first home.
These measures not only offer real solutions, they can also can be leveraged to add federal, local and private investment, create jobs and help businesses attract and retain the talent that fuels California's economy.
Every Californian deserves the dignity of having a place to call home.
Building safe and affordable apartments and single-family homes is vital for California and the state needs to act now. We urge our elected leaders to help us solve this problem and work to ensure that all Californians have a place to live.
Linda Mandolini, of Oakland, is president of Eden Housing, a nonprofit group that has provided housing for more than 65,000 people throughout California including in the North Bay. For more information, see www.edenhousing.org.