California will have a permanent source of funding for affordable housing after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a historic package of housing legislation today.
“This is probably the biggest bill-signing that I’ve ever seen because it’s dealing with something so basic as shelter and how we live in our homes and apartments throughout the state,” he said at a ceremony in San Francisco attended by a large group of legislators from across the state, local officials, and housing advocates.
The approved package includes SB 2 by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), which will raise an estimated $250 million a year for affordable housing by imposing a $75 fee on the recording of certain types of real estate documents, not including the sale of residential or commercial property.
Of the revenue generated in the first year, half will go toward reducing homelessness throughout California and half will go directly to local governments to update community plans in order to improve neighborhood quality of life and spur housing growth in locations where it makes the most sense, according to Atkins, who worked on the idea behind SB 2 for seven years.
“Today, with the signing of this package, we will be helping thousands upon thousands of Californians who don’t even have the luxury to know that we are here today signing legislation that will help get them into homes and services," she said.
Other key legislation includes SB 3 by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), which asks voters to approve a big $4 billion bond for affordable housing, and SB 35 by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), which speeds up housing approvals in cities that aren’t meeting their housing goals.
The campaign to win voter support for the bond in November 2018 starts now, Beall said.
While the action taken by lawmakers is historic, it’s only a first step in addressing the state's severe housing crisis, stressed several officials.
It was fitting that the bills were signed in San Francisco, wherethe "housing wage" for a modest two-bedroom apartment is a hefty $58.04, far higher than the national housing wage of $21.21, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition's (NLIHC's) Out of Reach report. The housing wage is the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest and safe rental home without spending more than 30% of his or her income on housing.
Statewide, California has a shortage of more than 1.1 million affordable and available rental units for extremely low-income households, reports NLIHC.
“We are not done with this work,” said Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland. “When you come back to Sacramento for your next legislative season, please do not say that last season was the season of housing and this year we will move on to something else. We have more work to do.”