California State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, held a virtual town hall Thursday to discuss the state’s response to the coronavirus and its effect on housing issues.
The town hall was also hosted by the housing activist groups California Yes In My Back Yard and East Bay for Everyone to address constituent concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I see beauty and frustration in this whole experience,” Wicks said at the event. “Beauty in neighbors helping neighbors and communities coming together, and then frustration at the lack of political leadership, especially on the federal level, to fundamentally address some of the concerns that we’re seeing.”
According to Wicks, one-third of renters in the United States could not pay their rent as of April 1. Wicks added that because 40% of California residents are renters, the number of people struggling to pay rent is likely even higher, and money from unemployment benefits is often insufficient to cover that cost.
The “oncoming” financial crisis will exacerbate existing homelessness and housing issues, according to Wicks. She added that she felt “in an ideal world,” the federal government would step in with a large-scale expansion of social safety nets.
“I don’t think we should be aiming to go back to normal because normal was not working,” Wicks said at the event.
Wicks also answered questions from constituents about supportive housing in hotels and motels, future development projects and her legislative agenda. While the legislature is out of session, Wicks said she and her office have refocused on helping constituents.
While Wicks will continue to push for legislation and additional funding to address housing concerns, these efforts have been limited by the legislature going out of session.
“Each bill goes through multiple committees and multiple amendments; that process is very critical, and we will not have that same process this year,” Wicks said. “A lot of things are unclear right now in our lives, including the legislative schedule.”