Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven June 15, 2022
Presented by California Cattle Council, NextGen Policy, and California Water Service

You could be a joint homeowner — with the state

KEEP TABS ON THE LATEST CALIFORNIA POLICY AND POLITICS NEWS

Much has been made about the persistent disagreement between Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers over how to put money back in the pockets of Californians reeling from high gas prices and the rising cost of living, but what about addressing the state’s perennial problem — housing?

Don’t worry, there are disagreements there, too.

The $300 billion placeholder budget lawmakers approved Monday lays the groundwork for a plan to boost homeownership among lower- and middle-income Californians and in communities of color by providing first-time buyers most or all of the money they need for a down payment in exchange for partial ownership stakes in those residences, CalMatters’ Alejandro Lazo reports. Participants would eventually repay the money into a self-sustaining loan fund.

Championed by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, the “California Dream for All” program would be funded by issuing revenue bonds of $1 billion a year for 10 years, and is expected to help about 7,700 borrowers annually.

Newsom, however, hasn’t signed off on the proposal. And while some industry groups support it, other experts warn of potential complications.

  • The California Homeownership Coalition, a group that includes the California Association of Realtors, the California Building Industry Association and Habitat for Humanity: “These funding solutions are especially important for communities of color still facing disproportionately low homeownership rates because of decades-long discriminatory housing practices.”
  • Andrew Caplin, a professor at New York University who wrote a book on shared equity programs: One concern is that politicians may feel pressured to not demand repayment and “in the end, it will all be agreed that we can’t really collect the money — like student loans.”

Meanwhile, as California awaits comprehensive figures from this year’s point-in-time count of the homeless population — the first since the pandemic ignited in early 2020 — the state is rushing to prevent more people from losing their homes.

  • California’s housing department on Tuesday announced an expansion of its federally funded mortgage relief program, a move that could help tens of thousands more residents keep a roof over their heads. Under the loosened eligibility requirements, homeowners earning at or below 150% of their county’s area median income can now apply for relief of as much as $80,000 if they missed at least two payments prior to June 30, 2022, and are currently delinquent. Meanwhile, Californians who own their home outright or have up-to-date mortgage payments can receive as much as $20,000 to cover overdue property taxes if they missed at least one payment prior to May 31, 2022.
  • So far, the program has paid more than $68 million to nearly 2,000 homeowners, according to state officials.
  • Meanwhile, California’s pandemic rent relief program is facing at least two lawsuits, including one that alleges its botched implementation has put tenants at increased risk of eviction and homelessness.

Other housing news you should know:

  • California has the country’s second-lowest homeownership rate at 56%, just above New York at 55%, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. That’s lower than its 58% rate 60 years ago.
  • As inflation and mortgage rates rise, some California home sellers are cutting asking prices — though most are still selling for higher sums, the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Berkeley and San Francisco are considering possible November ballot measures to tax vacant homes — a move they hope could open up more rental opportunities, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
  • Some see South Los Angeles developer Martin Muoto as a slumlord. Others see him as a visionary who’s managed to open homeless housing in less than half the time and at less than half the cost of government-run projects, the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Placer County is offering $1,000 to landlords to incentivize them to rent to homeless veterans, per the Sacramento Bee.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 9,169,339 confirmed cases (+0.7% from previous day) and 91,107 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 76,967,300 vaccine doses, and 75.5% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1 Lawmakers fast-track abortion amendment

Thousands of people gathered at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on May 14, 2022 as part of a nationwide effort to protect abortion rights. Photo by Raquel Natalicchio for CalMatters

In stark contrast to California leaders’ lack of progress on delivering financial relief for residents — Republican lawmakers are scheduled today to hold a press conference chastising Democrats for “100 days of inaction” on gas rebates — a proposal to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the state constitution sailed through two legislative committees on Tuesday. The constitutional amendment — which Newsom and top Democratic lawmakers announced hours after Politico published a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion suggesting justices are poised to strike down the federal constitutional right to an abortion — must be approved by two-thirds of legislators in both the Assembly and Senate by June 30 in order to land on voters’ ballots in November.

  • Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, acknowledged that California already does more than any other state to allow easy access to abortion — something that wouldn’t change even if the nation’s highest court were to overturn Roe vs. Wade. But “I want to know for sure that right is protected,” she said. “We are protecting ourselves from future (state) courts and future politicians.”
  • State Sen. Andreas Borgeas, a Fresno Republican, said he supported sending the proposed amendment to voters so they could have their say. But he said he was “concerned” that placing the right to an abortion in California’s constitution would be tantamount to “elevating” it above other fundamental rights, such as the right to water, food and health care.

Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story

D

Toni Atkins

State Senate, District 39 (San Diego)

State Senate, District 39 (San Diego)

How she voted 2019-2020
Liberal Conservative
District 39 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

Latino 19%
White 56%
Asian 16%
Black 5%
Multi-race 4%

Voter Registration

Dem 44%
GOP 23%
No party 27%
Other 4%
Campaign Contributions

Sen. Toni Atkins has taken at least $1.8 million from the Labor sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 20% of her total campaign contributions.

R

Andreas Borgeas

State Senate, District 8 (Fresno)

State Senate, District 8 (Fresno)

How he voted 2019-2020
Liberal Conservative
District 8 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

Latino 32%
White 51%
Asian 9%
Black 4%
Multi-race 3%

Voter Registration

Dem 34%
GOP 40%
No party 20%
Other 6%
Campaign Contributions

Sen. Andreas Borgeas has taken at least $239,000 from the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 13% of his total campaign contributions.

A stack of other abortion rights bills cleared key committees on Tuesday, as did several Newsom-sponsored proposals to strengthen California’s toughest-in-the-nation gun control laws.

2 More money for UC Riverside?

The University of California, Riverside campus on June 9, 2022. Photo by Raquel Natalicchio for CalMatters

Yet another budget battle is brewing over UC Riverside, which, despite enrolling more low-income undergraduate students than any other University of California campus last year, is also the least-funded. Part of that has to do with desirability: Located in the Inland Empire, UC Riverside attracts fewer out-of-state students — who pay about three times more in tuition than those from California — than other marquee campuses like UC Berkeley and UCLA.

Lawmakers — led by Democratic Assemblymember Jose Medina of Riverside — want the state to help make up that difference by injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into UC Riverside and other historically underfunded campuses, such as UC Merced. But one big wild card remains, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports: Is Newsom on board?

3 California marks 1-year reopening anniversary

Edward Strickland receives a COVID-19 rapid test at Greater St. Paul Church in Oakland on Jan. 4, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

It may all seem like a fever dream, but exactly one year ago today — on June 15, 2021 — Newsom, flanked by Minions, Smurfs and Transformers on a stage at Universal Studios Hollywood, declared California open for business after 453 days of COVID-19 lockdowns. To celebrate, he drew $15 million worth of prizes from the state’s controversial vaccine lottery.

A year later, with nearly 76% of Californians 5 and older fully vaccinated and a long-term COVID plan in place, the virus doesn’t dominate the headlines as much as it used to — but it still looms in the background like a shadow you can’t quite shake, as some counties reinstate mask rules and concerns grow over long COVID. The state’s 9.1% test positivity rate on Tuesday was significantly higher than the 0.7% logged on June 15, 2021. But death rates have remained relatively stagnant since April, state data show.

  • State health officials continue to underscore the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted, noting that from May 16 to May 22, unvaccinated people were 5 times more likely than boosted people to contract COVID, 7.4 times more likely to be hospitalized and 8.2 times more likely to die.
  • Nevertheless, a number of high-profile vaccinated and boosted officials have recently contracted COVID, including Newsom. After recovering, the governor attended last week’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. Other attendees, including U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tested positive after leaving the summit. It’s Becerra’s second infection in less than a month.
  • Dr. Erica Pan, California’s state epidemiologist, told the San Francisco Chronicle: “We’ve learned and reinforced that the vaccines are definitely doing the job of preventing serious illness. But we did not anticipate the immune evasion to happen so quickly with regards to infections.”
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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Lawmakers just passed a 1,000-page sham budget, drafted largely in secret with minimal public exposure and many blanks to be filled in later.

California should fund changes to school food program: With rising food prices, ongoing supply chain disruptions and soon-to-expire federal waivers, multiyear investments in the state’s universal school meal program are essential, write First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Kat Taylor, co-founder of TomKat Ranch.

Limiting pesticide use would be a mistake: Californians should be aware of the unintended consequences of eliminating pest control tools as state regulators and lawmakers consider a pesticide ban, argues Renee Pinel, president and CEO of the Western Plant Health Association.

Other things worth your time


Some stories may require a subscription to read

San Jose bomb squad finds explosive device at councilwoman’s Willow Glen home. // Mercury News

Bass pulls ahead of Caruso in latest vote count for Los Angeles mayor. // Los Angeles Times

The Boudin recall crashed Muni’s $400M bond. The same consulting firm led both. // Mission Local

Behind the scenes in Mayor London Breed’s search to replace Chesa Boudin. // San Francisco Standard

New Supervisor Dorsey proposes ‘right to recovery’ zones with targeted drug enforcement. // San Francisco Standard

Term limits measure for Santa Clara Valley Water District clings to narrow lead. // Mercury News

State legislature OK’s Newsom bonuses for health care workers. // Sacramento Bee

California to pay $51 million settlement over killings at Napa veterans home. // Sacramento Bee

State began investigating San Francisco, Oakland housing six months ago. What happened? // San Francisco Business Times

Bill would give $25,000 to aspiring school counselors, social workers. // EdSource

Three months in, L.A. schools chief Carvalho earns high marks, but tough tests lie ahead. // The 74 Million

Coachella Valley Unified school buses late amid driver shortage. // Desert Sun

Commentary: The artist in CSULB’s new exhibit is a major donor. That’s bad, and so is the art. // Los Angeles Times

Hellish fires, low pay, trauma: U.S. Forest Service firefighters face a morale crisis. // Los Angeles Times

Yosemite National Park undergoes forest thinning due to fire risk; environmentalists want it stopped. // Los Angeles Times

California’s sequoia trees struggle to survive climate change, severe wildfires. // Washington Post

Thousand-acre Sheep fire is 35% contained as conditions appear more favorable. // Los Angeles Times

Why toxic algae blooms are on the rise across California — and expected to get worse. // San Francisco Chronicle

Big water cutbacks ordered amid Colorado River shortage. // Los Angeles Times

Self-driving tractors could be widespread on California farms by next year. // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

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