California lawmakers are hoping to reach a deal to address the state’s widening housing crisis next week, and negotiations could be tied to the cap-and-trade extension sought by Gov. Jerry Brown, Democratic leaders of both houses hinted Wednesday.
Postponing the climate bill vote until Monday will “allow our discussion on long-term housing affordability solutions in California to catch up to the climate effort,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a joint statement.
Brown’s office declined to disclose details of housing discussions underway, only saying they are “productive and ongoing.” Lawmakers also remain tight-lipped about specific timing and policy details, but those entrenched in the housing debate are hoping that a legislative package could come together as soon as next week.
“We have to have funding as part of that package,” Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said Monday in the Assembly’s housing committee that he chairs.
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Democrats in the state Senate and the Assembly have called on the Legislature and Brown to agree this year on a comprehensive package to secure long-term funding for development of affordable housing, along with land-use changes to speed up the development process.
“It’s extremely important that streamlining and affordable housing funding move forward together – they need to be part of one package,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, author of Senate Bill 35, which seeks to streamline the approval process for affordable housing projects. “What we’ve seen is a willingness on all sides, including the governor, advocates, the business community and our members, to be mutually supportive of a variety of bills that reform the process as well as fund new affordable housing. I’m optimistic we’re going to move forward a good package.”
State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, suggested Thursday that conversations between the Governor’s Office and legislative leaders on a potential housing deal are linked to cap-and-trade negotiations.
“Cap-and-trade provides the tension to force people to look at this... Everyone is working really hard on cap-and-trade, and getting something done on housing is part of this discussion,” Atkins said. “Clearly there has been a push from the Assembly side to try and get this done in a similar timeline as cap-and-trade, so I would assume that means next week... We’re preparing for next week, but we have to have the votes.”
Brown, who has made climate change the centerpiece of his agenda, late last month committed to working with liberal Democrats pushing for affordable housing legislation. He has called for broad land-use changes as part of any housing package. His 2016 proposal to increase housing production by streamlining the approvals process died last year in Legislature. This year he pulled back the $400 million in one-time funding set aside last year for housing.
Still, Brown has called for a set of guidelines, as part of any legislative package, that aim to fast-track development, reduce production costs and strengthen state laws that require local governments to set aside land for production of affordable housing.
The state’s housing shortage is worse than it has ever been. Rents are soaring, contributing to rampant tenant displacement, and low-income residents, especially, are fleeing California for cheaper living elsewhere.
The majority of California renters spend 30 to 50 percent of their income on housing, and homeownership is at its lowest point since the 1940s, according to a state housing assessment released this year. Housing supply has not kept pace with demand. The state has built less than 80,000 homes each year for the past 10 years, far below the 180,000 the state says California needs per year.
“We’re in the midst of the most intense housing crisis California has experienced and we need to act now,” Chiu said.
Democrats in both houses have sought to address Brown’s concerns, while advancing financing measures to spur development of new affordable housing across the state. A potential housing package could include Wiener’s Senate Bill 35 to streamline development; Senate Bill 3 from Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, which would authorize a s $3 billion state bond for affordable housing; and Senate Bill 2 from Atkins, which would levy a $75 fee on real estate transactions.
“I am increasingly hopeful that relief is coming soon for many hardworking people,” Atkins said in a statement last week after the bill cleared the Senate floor. If passed in the Assembly and signed by Brown, the bill would generate about $250 million per year for affordable housing. It would lead to the construction or rehabilitation of 20,000 new homes in its first five years, according to Atkins’ office.
Other proposals from Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Jose, and Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would increase affordability requirements in new construction and strengthen laws that require cities and counties to set aside land for affordable housing construction.
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WORTH REPEATING: “To see that we almost landed on four planes full of passengers is a little disturbing.” –Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, aboard the Air Canada jet that nearly landed on the taxiway at SFO.
CAP AND TRADE: Brown is trying to get Democrats and Republicans on board ahead of Monday’s vote. Meanwhile, a state Senate committee is set to take up the two bills from Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, and Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, which Brown is seeking as part of the deal.
“The Legislature is taking action to curb climate change and protect vulnerable communities from industrial poisons,” Brown said when he announced the deal earlier this week.
The Senate Environmental Quality committee is expected to take up the bills beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.
Late Wednesday, the California Business Roundtable weighed in with its support, with President Rob Lapsley urging “broad-based, bipartisan support” for the bills. “These bills create a balanced policy strategy to extending California’s cap-and-trade program, which represents the most effective market-based approach to achieving our climate goals and growing our economy.”
BLACK WOMEN’S MARCH: The group Black Women United are planning a march Saturday in Sacramento. Dubbed the “Ain’t I a Woman” march, the event is aimed at unifying black women across the spectrum of religion, sexual identity and income level, and “under one umbrella of resistance to oppression,” organizers said.
The event begins at 9 a.m. at Crocker Park and ends at 10:15 a.m. with a rally at the Capitol. People of all ages, races, genders and other affiliations are welcome. People can follow on social media using the hashtag #OurTurn.
MUST READ: To lose his climate change plan would be a tragedy “for the world,” Brown told Bee reporter Christopher Cadelago this week.
CELEBRATE: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles, who turns 46 today, and to Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland, who turns 71 on Sunday.