Capitol Alert

Is key housing measure stuck in the California Assembly?

Low-rise homes dot the landscape in San Francisco, June 26, 2017. A full-fledged housing crisis has gripped California, where the lack of affordable homes and apartments for middle-class families is severe. The median cost of a home here is now a staggering $500,000, twice the national cost. Homelessness is surging across the state.
Low-rise homes dot the landscape in San Francisco, June 26, 2017. A full-fledged housing crisis has gripped California, where the lack of affordable homes and apartments for middle-class families is severe. The median cost of a home here is now a staggering $500,000, twice the national cost. Homelessness is surging across the state. NYT

After balking last week, the California Legislature is preparing for a vote on a series of bills that would help offset the state’s housing crisis.

Senate Bill 2 from Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is the most controversial measure in the housing package. The bill would impose a $75 to $225 fee on real estate transactions and generate as much as $258 million per year for low-income housing development and programs to combat homelessness.

Atkins has struggled to convince two-thirds of the Assembly – all 54 Democrats – to support a fee increase after they raised gas taxes on motorists earlier this year. Besides the unpopular transportation measure, the Legislature extended the state’s cap-and-trade program climate change, which will raise the price of gas.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Los Angeles, on Friday called off a vote on SB 2 and two other housing measures after it became clear that they didn’t have the votes to pass the Atkins bill in part due to a lawmaker’s absence from the floor session.

Leaders of both houses would like to vote on the package this week, although it’s unclear whether they can get SB 2 to the governor’s desk by the time the legislative session ends on Sept. 15.

Atkins worked through the summer recess to talk with every member of the Assembly about the measure. She subsequently amended the bill to give revenue from the real estate fee to each district and prioritize programs to curb homelessness, which gives lawmakers something to boast about during election season. Atkins had not yet secured verbal commitments for 54 yes votes by late Friday, but planned to continue to work through the holiday weekend.

“The most important thing is the author and supporters can talk to everyone who remains undecided and has questions,” said Nick Hardeman, Atkins’ chief-of-staff, said on Friday. “We need the time to do that.”

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Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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