State senators unveil $5 billion proposal for affordable housing, homeless efforts

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Five California state senators announced a $5 billion budget proposal specifically geared toward addressing affordable housing and the homelessness crisis in California. 

State Sens. Nancy Skinner, Jim Beall, Scott Wiener, Richard Roth and Hannah-Beth Jackson unveiled the proposal at a press conference Wednesday. The bill builds off of SB 912, which was introduced in the Senate by Skinner and Beall in January. According to a press release, the $5 billion would be budgeted over four years to fund affordable housing, rent assistance and temporary shelter for the homeless in California.

“With more than 100,000 Californians now living on our streets, we know that fixing our housing and homelessness crisis is a priority,” Skinner said at a press conference Wednesday. “Directing significant funding for affordable housing and to help the homeless is a reflection of our values and an appropriate use of one-time funds.”

According to a summary of the budget proposal introduced in a subcommittee meeting, the package allocates $2.1 billion to affordable housing construction, $1 billion to addressing long-term homelessness and $1 billion to addressing short-term homelessness through block grants and support programs.

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said SB 912 sets aside $700 million to be awarded in grants to cities and counties, which can be used for permanent homeless housing, emergency shelters and navigation centers. The new budget proposal was designed to give cities more flexibility in determining how best to spend allocated funds, according to the summary.

“Instead of spending a billion dollars on hiring and bureaucracy, making $700 million in grants to cities and counties is really valuable, because cities and counties know what they’re trying to do,” Worthington said. “This could help a lot of cities move forward.”

Specific programs outlined in the new budget proposal include a “Home Safe” program for homeless seniors and a homeless mental illness outreach program, which would receive one-time allocations of $15 million and $50 million, respectively. According to the summary, the proposal will “complement the implementation of the No Place Like Home program,” which develops supportive housing for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness or mental illness.

According to the SB 912 text, the 2017 federal tax law reduces the value of the low-income housing tax credit, causing California to lose a projected $540 million per annum. SB 912 would replace the money lost and provide additional funding for affordable housing and homelessness efforts. The newly unveiled budget proposal would increase the total amount to $5 billion.

“I think it’s very timely,” Worthington said. “We’re in the midst of a crisis of homelessness and affordability. … At the very bare minimum, we’ve got to keep the amount of money we had in previous years, not allow it to be reduced.”

Revati Thatte is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.