State Assembly speaker announces proposal for affordable housing plan

Michael Wan/Staff

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Local leaders are embracing a state Assembly proposal for affordable housing announced Wednesday, which aims to stabilize the state’s development and construction marketplace.

Introduced by state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, the Affordable Housing Plan is an attempt to confront the state’s issue of homelessness. It would tax real estate transaction documents, increase the state’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit and use portions of funds saved from Proposition 47 — which lowers the sentence for certain drug and property offenses from a felony to a misdemeanor — to invest in rapid rehousing for formerly incarcerated Californians.

According to Atkins, roughly 79 percent of costs incurred by a single homeless Californian — through emergency room visits, in-patient hospital stays, arrests and incarceration — are cut when that person has an affordable home.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates voiced his support of Atkins’ proposal, noting the state’s affordable housing crisis has become more severe from increases in income equality and gentrification in local communities.

“Atkins’ Affordable Housing Plan … would provide critically needed support for our efforts to provide housing for those with limited incomes,” Bates said in an email.

Similarly, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond said in an email that “because the cost of housing is so high in the Bay Area, this package is of critical need.”

To establish a permanent source of funding for affordable housing, the plan proposes a fee of $75 to be placed on real estate transaction documents. Such a fee, however, would be capped at $225 per transaction, according to John Casey, communications director for Atkins.

Atkins added that increasing the state’s low-income tax credit by $300 million would help to create more jobs and stabilize the construction market, encouraging developers to build more affordable housing.

“If developers know there are funds available and that they will be there on a regular basis, they will take on the risk that comes with development — and they’ll create a reliable pipeline of well-paying construction jobs in the process,” Atkins said at a press conference.

Beyond establishing taxes on real estate and increasing tax credits, Atkin’s plan would also take $50 to $80 million saved from Proposition 47 to invest in housing support for formerly incarcerated Californians.

Some, however, are skeptical of the proposal’s efficacy. Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner James Chang said though the proposal takes a step in the right direction, affordable housing is only available to those who make $35,000 to $45,000 annually.

“It is important for us to realize that affordable housing is not enough in terms of resolving the housing crisis in California,” Chang said.

Claire Chiara, president of Berkeley College Republicans and a former Daily Californian staff writer, added that because the state is “already in debt,” the Affordable Housing Plan could be “another underfunded project.”

Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].