Capitol Alert

Should Californians pay more to build affordable housing?

In this Sept. 9, 2015 file photo, Gov. Jerry Brown, center, listens to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, and then-Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins at the Capitol.
In this Sept. 9, 2015 file photo, Gov. Jerry Brown, center, listens to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, and then-Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins at the Capitol. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders last week touted their “shared commitment” to reach a deal to address the state’s housing crisis, after securing the supermajority needed to extend California’s cap-and-trade program to 2030.

But there are early signs that hammering out a deal could be tricky. The Legislature went on a monthlong summer recess without outlining a potential legislative package to deal with the problem, after Democrats said for weeks that they hoped to be further along by the break.

The biggest problem? Reaching a deal on an annual source of funding for affordable housing.

Liberal Democrats say when Brown dissolved redevelopment agencies in 2011, cities and counties across the state lost roughly $1 billion a year that helped them build affordable housing. That loss has exacerbated the state’s housing crisis, some say.

Senate Bill 2 from state Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would replace some of that funding by levying a new $75 to $225 fee on real estate transactions, generating an estimated $225 million per year. It would require a two-thirds vote. Senate Bill 3 from state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, would put a $3 billion general obligation bond for housing before voters next year. Senate Bill 35 from Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would streamline the approvals process for new construction.

Some Democrats already are skeptical of Atkins’ proposed real estate fee.

“It looks like taxes,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Manhattan Beach. “I’m always sensitive to raising taxes.”

Muratsuchi and moderate Democrats, including Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced, were left off a list of names put out by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, of lawmakers who back the broader effort to address housing.

Assembly Bill 71, from Chiu, would have created an ongoing funding source by eliminating the mortgage interest deduction for second homes. It faced steep opposition, including from the California Association of Realtors, and later stalled in the Assembly.

Brown, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said last week that a deal will include a general obligation bond for housing, a permanent funding source for affordable housing and regulatory reform, but they did not include additional details.

If the Legislature does not identify a source of funding for affordable housing, it “hasn’t really done anything on housing,” said Ray Pearl, executive director of the California Housing Consortium.

“You can’t build without funding,” he said. “Every day the Legislature doesn’t act, this catastrophe gets worse.”

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WORTH REPEATING: “I know a lot of people hate trains. They do!” – Brown, who is pushing high-speed rail, speaking at a Caltrain groundbreaking Friday in Millbrae.

Angela Hart: 916-326-5528, @ahartreports

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