By Rob Bonta
California’s housing crisis has become an out-of-control car rolling downhill and gaining speed. The ability of middle and low-income people to secure affordable shelter, a basic human need and right, has been moving further out of reach. Together, my colleagues and I must take action this week.
California has the world’s sixth largest economy in the world. Our state is a powerful force of innovation and productivity. But our people– our greatest asset– are suffering under unprecedented income inequality that has fueled soaring home and rental prices. Families and seniors are being forced out of their homes and neighborhoods. Our economy will suffer when workers cannot afford to live in the communities near their jobs.
While the crisis is most acute in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, it’s being felt across California where too few homes and affordable housing units are being built.
Efforts have been made to chip away at the problem. But we are not yet acting on the scale or with the coordinated strategy that’s needed. We can change that this week.
The Legislature has now made addressing our housing crisis a priority, introducing more than 100 bills that present varied solutions. These include creating new sources of permanent funding for affordable housing, increasing tenant protections, a voter-approved bond, and streamlining development of housing under careful conditions to increase the number of homes being built.
California’s median home price has now topped $550,000 for the first time according to the California Association of Realtors and our home ownership rate is last in the nation.
According to a January 2017 Public Policy Institute of California report, California has six of the nation’s eleven most expensive large metropolitan rental markets. Data also shows 84 percent of renter households are considered “burdened” as defined by spending more than 30 percent of annual income on rent, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development.
As lawmakers, we must harness the same focus, intensity and leadership on the housing crisis as we used to pass the recent Transportation and the Cap-and-Trade legislation. Housing is not a partisan issue and it should not be viewed through an overly-ideological lens. Urgent help is needed now. We cannot wait any longer. We are in an all-hands-on deck emergency.
Your activism and advocacy will make a difference. You can get involved by reaching out to your state lawmakers. Tell them to vote yes on the package of housing bills including SB 2, SB 3 and SB 35 which will help provide more Californians with a secure roof over their heads.
The California Dream of home ownership and housing stability has moved out of reach for many low and middle-income families. The time to act is now. Together, with courage and determination, we can make a profound and positive difference in the lives of our fellow Californians.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader and Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus.