State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), with co-authors Sen. Scott Wiener, and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Buffy Wicks, this week unveiled SB 18 “Keep Californians Housed,” which seeks to stop homelessness before it starts by expanding state funding to provide rental assistance as well as legal aid to assist residents in staying in their homes.
“When it comes to homelessness, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Sena. Skinner. “It costs much less to keep someone in their current residence than to provide services or find housing for those who end up homeless and living on our streets.”
Keep Californians Housed is modeled on a program recently begun in Oakland named Keep Oakland Housed, which in just two months has helped approximately 150 Oakland families remain in their residences.
According to a 2009 Los Angeles study by the Economic Roundtable, providing services and emergency response to homeless individuals can cost taxpayers nearly $35,000 a year. Programs like Keep Oakland Housed expend up to $7,000 to assist families as risk of displacement.
Seeking to replicate this success across California, Skinner’s bill comes at a critical time as homelessness among working people and families is rising. Skyrocketing rents and stagnant wages have severely squeezed many households and have caused over a quarter of all California renters to now spend more than half of their income on rent.
Losing one’s home can set off a chain reaction leading to job loss, negative health impacts and more, which make it even harder to secure new housing.
SB 18 would set aside state funds to provide both direct assistance for households who have fallen behind on their rent as well as legal assistance for tenants whose landlords may be trying to evict them illegally, replicating the good work of Keep Oakland Housed across California.
SB 18 is a continuation of Senator Skinner’s work to address homelessness and alleviate the effects of California’s punishing housing shortage.
Skinner authored SB 167 in 2017, which required local governments to approve housing projects that comply with local zoning laws, and was a leader in the 2018 effort that secured an additional $500M in state funding for homeless services and housing.
“When it comes to housing units per person, California is the second worst in the U.S.,” said Senator Skinner. “To solve California’s housing crisis, we need an ‘all of the above’ approach that keeps people in their homes while building more housing at every income level up and down the state.”