California is poised to invest $10 billion to accelerate housing production and $12 billion to tackle homelessness.
By Lourdes Castro Ramírez, Special to CalMatters
Lourdes Castro Ramírez is Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, Lourdes.CastroRamirez@bcsh.ca.gov.
California has often been criticized for lacking a comprehensive, holistic approach to housing and homelessness. When investments were made in the past, they were often scattered in their approach and design, with little strategic relation to other investments.
This is changing.
California is now poised to invest $10 billion to accelerate housing production and $12 billion to tackle homelessness – with funding for Homekey units, shovel-ready affordable housing, mortgage and rental assistance, and direct resources for local governments to prevent and end homelessness.
This is more than 10 times the budget of any previous year.
To get the most out of these dollars, we plan to deploy them quickly and in coordination with federal and local governments. We are also building off the work of the last few years that makes it easier to build in California by continuing to streamline the approval process for affordable housing and accessory dwelling units. And we will be focusing on building the housing not being produced by the market – housing for very low- and extremely low-income households who have been squeezed out of housing opportunities for far too long.
As secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, I am working closely with Gov. Gavin Newsom and an incredible team to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of these resources.
For the past 16 months we have been working on meaningful, strategic coordination of the work done by the housing and homelessness departments within our agency – the Department of Housing and Community Development, the California Housing Finance Agency, and the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council.
We are also harmonizing their work with key partners like the Health and Human Services Agency to provide critical health and social services, and with the state Treasurer’s Office, whose tax credits and bond resources are so essential to financing affordable housing.
Why does this matter? Because people like Chad Martin expect government to work when they fall on hard times.
I met Chad in San Diego at the Stella and Bluewater community, a 158-unit complex providing affordable housing to low-income families, individuals and veterans. Before living there, Chad had bounced around on the couches of friends or occasionally slept in Balboa Park following a tough divorce. While he worked off and on as a bartender, it wasn’t enough to help him get back on his feet.
Then one day, an outreach worker deployed to Balboa Park offered him hope. He went into a temporary shelter and within three months was able to move into a permanent housing unit with onsite services. Having a safe, stable place to live along with rental assistance has enabled him to focus on renewing his real estate license and regain his chance at a better life.
Every California family deserves a chance to live their dreams, and stable housing is an important part of their ability to do so. And our efforts always keep individuals like Chad in mind, allowing us to be people-centered with a lens on racial and geographic equity.
With housing costs significantly outpacing wages, many Californians were already in precarious situations even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. A coordinated approach is crucial to helping as many Californians as possible.
In providing the largest housing and homelessness investment in California’s history, Newsom and the Legislature have put a huge down payment on the solutions needed to stabilize people in their homes during the pandemic, address the state’s long-term housing instability and give every Californian an opportunity to have a place to call home.
The solutions to tackle housing insecurity and give every Californian a fighting chance to reach their potential is a centerpiece of Newsom’s $100 billion California Comeback Plan. For state and local governments, these resources will mean building more units more quickly with greater reach and greater coordination.
For individual Californians like Chad, they will provide an opportunity for a new beginning.