4 California leaders endorse Senate bill aiming to address housing crisis

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On July 25, several statewide officeholders endorsed California state Sen. Scott Wiener’s More HOMES Act, or SB 50, according to a press release from California YIMBY, an organization whose name stands for “Yes In My Back Yard.”

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Controller Betty Yee, Treasurer Fiona Ma and Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara were among those who announced their support for the bill, which outlines a targeted, pro-housing approach to addressing California’s housing crisis.

The More HOMES Act would encourage cities to promote housing development near public transit hubs and job centers. It would also end apartment bans and legalize multifamily homes while protecting renters and adding provisions for affordable housing, according to the press release.

“(The More HOMES Act) is the most impactful attempt to date to deliver more homes to Californians while ensuring that every jurisdiction across the state absorbs a fair share of the burden,” Kounalakis said in the press release.

Based on data from academic and private-sector researchers, California currently has a shortage of 3.5 million homes, equal to the housing shortages of the other 49 states combined. According to the press release, while California’s population has tripled since the early 1960s, its housing production has declined by almost two-thirds, and it ranks as the second-lowest state in the country in per capita housing units.

According to the press release, the More HOMES Act would create new incentives for housing construction within half a mile of existing transit stations in California’s cities in hopes of reducing pollution and commute time. Cognizant of renters and sensitive communities, the bill also includes protections against displacement in those development areas.

“As we build the millions of new homes we know we need, we need to ensure that we avoid endless and environmentally destructive sprawl,” Wiener said in the press release. “We should focus new housing near jobs and transit.”

Recent wildfires in California have served as an environmental catalyst for public debate over the housing crisis. The decimation of communities living in areas with high fire risk over the past few years is a “clear sign” that California’s leadership needs to examine the process and the location of housing development, Lara said in the press release.

Lara added that a current lack of affordable housing options in cities pushes people to rural areas, where they face higher environmental risks in general.

In terms of the economy, leaving the housing crisis unsolved will eventually pose a threat to fiscal stability, Yee said in the press release.

“If policymakers do not act in a stable economy to address our housing challenges, housing costs could continue to rise even amidst lay-offs and furloughs,” Yee said in the press release. “With less revenue to spend on important state programs, policymakers will be confronted with difficult choices between housing assistance and other critical social safety net services.”

The More HOMES Act is backed by a number of organizations advocating for affordable housing and community equity, such as Habitat for Humanity.

Additionally, the bill currently has bipartisan support in California’s Legislature, along with endorsements from local mayors and city council members — including San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“California’s severe housing shortage is harming millions of Californians,” Wiener said in the press release. “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and instead do what Californians want us to do: address our housing crisis now.”

Contact Annie Cheng at [email protected].