2020 Year in Review

As we moved into the 2019-2020 legislative cycle, our state conveyed a willingness to spend $1 billion in funding to fight homelessness, including $650 million in emergency homeless aid. Towards the end of 2019, Governor Newsom had signed a multitude of proposals including SB 329, a Housing California sponsored bill, making it illegal to reject a prospective tenant solely based on the applicant’s use of a Section 8 federal housing voucher. In February 2020, during his State of the State Address, he highlighted the “118 consecutive months of net job growth, some 3.4 million jobs created since the Great Recession and nearly 4 million small businesses.” Yet, no one anticipated a worldwide pandemic, the devastating wildfires, and the economic devastation that would upend best laid plans.

Governor Newsom called 2020 the “year of housing production” and the Legislature was poised to address the severe shortage of affordable homes throughout the state. California was in a good position to tackle a crisis that has long been ignored – over 151,000 people experiencing homelessness in California on any given night. Gov. Newsom called homelessness a top priority to be addressed through legislation and funding. He noted the multi-sector nature of the issue, the State’s responsibility to be a partner with local jurisdictions in solving it, and promised “to work closely to identify ongoing revenue to provide the safer, cleaner streets our communities deserve” and ultimately declared that homelessness could be solved.

Yet, as COVID-19 spread through the state and the U.S., we saw a patchwork of shelter-in-place orders and economic shutdowns, and a lack of federal leadership, accompanied by public fear and confusion. The priorities shifted swiftly from housing to public health. While Governor Newsom urged all Californians to quarantine at home, homelessness and housing advocates held up the government’s responsibility to protect and provide for people living on the streets.

The Newsom Administration responded promptly by creating Project Roomkey, the first of its type in the nation, to offer protection from the virus by providing individuals experiencing homelessness with shelter in hotels and motels. By June the state had filled 10,644 hotel rooms while providing access to services and meals. Because Project RoomKey came with an expiration date, Housing California and others pressed for long-term solutions. By mid-July, the Administration launched Project Home key, which aimed to convert hotels/motels into permanent and interim housing. As of October 2020, Project Homekey had provided funds of more than $835 million, supporting 93 projects and 6,000 interim and permanent homes statewide.

On top of the pandemic, California grappled with widespread, devastating wildfires, a $15 billion budget deficit, historic unemployment, social unrest, and limitations on legislation. But even with all these challenges, Housing California sought to improve the housing and homelessness fields through funding and policy changes, sponsoring bills that would bring relief and protection to those struggling the most.

Tragically, the majority of Housing California’s bills, along with most other legislation, did not pass this year, due to an unexpected budget deficit, logistical restrictions on the Legislature due to COVID-19 infections and protective measures, unexpected opposition to affordable housing productions bills from the State Building Trades, and vetoes from the Governor.

Final Budget Analysis

On June 29, 2020, Governor Newsom signed the 2020-21 State budget. In general, the budget reflected a prioritization of housing and homelessness in light of the pandemic, which has caused a $54 billion budget deficit for the State. Our advocacy helped ensure that the passed budget includes nearly $1 billion to address homelessness and $500 million for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program. You can find Housing CA’s budget analysis here. Housing CA’s budget advocacy centered around ensuring there was sufficient funding for Project Homekey operations and programs beyond Project Homekey. This included securing $50 million for operations dedicated from the general fund and $300 million for the Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Program.

At the end of legislative cycle

Support Bills

AB 434 (Daly) Streamline HCD Funding Applications and Award Process: Approved by Governor

AB 694 (Irwin) Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act of 2022: Did not pass

AB 1279 (Bloom) By-Right Affordable Housing Development in High-Resource Areas: Did not pass

AB 1436 (Chiu) Eviction Prevention and Housing Stability during the COVID-19 Emergency: Did not pass

AB 1905 (Chiu) Eliminating the Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction on Second Homes: Did not pass

Murder of George Floyd and Summer of Protest

Over that summer, the nation witnessed a summer of racial justice activism, sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. Americans, took to the streets in record numbers to protest systemic racism in policing and the justice system. Since then, despite widespread support for the Black Lives Matter movement, protests have dwindled, and a number of criminal justice reform bills did not get signed into law.

However, we have taken on a renewed focus of racial equity throughout our work, highlighted by working with Race Foward to embed racial equity in the DNA of the Roadmap Home. Other efforts included supporting AB 2054 and publishing our first ever Voter’s Guide, (guided by racial equity), and taking positions on a number of racial justice propositions.