SACRAMENTO (AP) — Democratic lawmakers called Monday for California to spend $1.3 billion next year to help workers afford housing and to shelter homeless people in response to the growing statewide issue.
“People literally cannot afford to live where they work and some folks can’t afford to live in any community at all,” said Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond.
He and Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, were flanked by nine other Democratic legislators, including Speaker Anthony Rendon of Paramount, as they announced their proposal to use an unexpected tax windfall to address what they termed a housing crisis.
In January, Senate Democrats, joined by some Republicans, proposed a $2 billion bond measure to build permanent housing to help the nation’s largest homeless population.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown was noncommittal on supporting either plan before budget negotiations get under way next month.
“We have heard loud and clear that, if it’s a priority of the Legislature during the budget process, that is something the governor and his staff will consider,” Chiu said, citing meetings he has had with the governor’s staff.
Brown spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman declined comment Monday. In January she said the administration would review the Senate plan to redirect money from Proposition 63, the 2004 ballot measure that added a 1 percent tax on incomes over $1 million to pay for mental health treatment.
Most of the funds in the Assembly plan would be distributed through competitive grants to help private organizations build multi-family housing and allow local governments to assist homebuyers with down-payments or mortgages. A portion would provide emergency shelters for transient people and rentals for farmworkers.
Housing California Executive Director Shamus Roller, whose organization lobbies for affordable housing, said the proposal is the most significant push for low-income home development since a 2006 bonding measure provided more than $2.8 billion for similar investments. Most of that money has been spent.
“Our high housing costs are making it difficult for people to be successful,” Roller said. “Rents are going up, housing costs are going up and there are just too many people who are in some form of housing crisis right now.”
Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga, objected to using state funds to create “a new generation of renters.” Steinorth, vice chairman of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, said he would prefer to see the Legislature remove fees and other hurdles to homeownership.
“We need to build our way out of this problem, not throw money at the problem,” Steinorth said.