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
AB 1703 (Bloom) State-wide Tenant’s Right of First Offer: Dead
This bill would have required owners of tenant-occupied single family and multi-family properties to provide notice of the owner’s intent to sell their property and give tenants and qualifying organizations the right to first offer to purchase the property to ensure the long-term affordability of more housing in communities throughout California. It was a place-based anti-displacement solution that would have allowed tenants to remain stably housed while expanding the inventory of deed-restricted affordable housing on a much shorter timeline and at lower cost to the state than new construction.
AB 1845 (Rivas) State Office to End Homelessness: Vetoed by Governor
This bill would have created an Office to End Homelessness within the Governor’s Office that would be overseen by a Secretary of Housing Insecurity and Homelessness, who would have both the authority to coordinate and to hold the state accountable for its response to addressing homelessness. The new Office would have provided a single point of contact on homelessness at the state level to oversee and coordinate homelessness programs administered by other state entities, thereby removing unnecessary bureaucracy and consolidating the delivery of services.
AB 1907 (Santiago) CEQA Exemption for Permanent Supportive Housing + Affordable Housing: Dead
This bill would have provided a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for affordable housing funded by certain programs, supportive housing, and emergency shelters. While CEQA was originally intended to protect the environment from the negative impacts of development, CEQA has been used by opponents of family, low-income and homeless housing, to delay developments with a lengthy environmental review process.
AB 2329 (Chiu) Homelessness Needs and Gaps Analysis: Dead
This bill would have required the State to conduct a needs and gaps assessment of state programs that provide housing or services to people experiencing homelessness, to determine their efficiency, and potential gaps in services or duplicative efforts. This bill would have allowed the Administration and Legislature to better prioritize and fund specific interventions, making State resources more responsive to urgent need.
SB 282 (Beall) Supportive Housing for People on Parole with Mental Illness: Dead (2 year bill)
California would have allocated over $16 million per year for the Integrated Services for Mentally Ill Parolee program (ISMIP), a program that provides mental health treatment to parolees with severe mental illness. This program was found ineffective by both the Legislative Analyst’s Office and UCLA. SB 282 would have redirected the funding to the Department of Housing and Community Development to provide grants to counties for supportive housing. The county would have been required to provide medi-cal mental health and substance use treatment to the participants.
AB 2988 (Chu) Increased Cap for Streamlined Supportive Housing: Dead
This bill would have increased the unit cap on projects eligible for streamlined approval, from 50 to 120 units, in areas with less than 200,000 people and less than a 1,500 PIT count. It would have also expanded the areas where the development of supportive housing is eligible for streamlined approval to include areas where emergency shelters are allowed.
AB 3269 (Chiu) State and Local Agencies: Homelessness Plan and Needs Gap Analysis: Dead
This bill would have established the Office of the Housing and Homelessness Inspector General (IG) as an independent Office within the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency. The bill would have required a statewide needs and gaps analysis to identify state programs that provide housing or services to persons experiencing homelessness and create a financial model assessing the investment needs for moving these community members into permanent housing. The bill set forth a goal of reducing homelessness by 90% by 2028. The Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council would be required to set benchmark goals for every “agency,” defined as both the State and local jurisdictions, to meet the 90% reduction by 2028. Agencies would be required to submit annual reports to the Coordinating Council.
AB 3300 (Bloom) Annual Appropriation to Tackle Homelessness: Dead
This bill would have established a framework for ongoing appropriations of $2 billion to address California’s homelessness crisis. AB 3300 would have directed these funds to cities, counties and homeless Continuums of Care, and affordable housing developers in small cities, to expedite the development and delivery of homeless and affordable housing, rental assistance, and wrap-around services.
SB 361 (Mitchell) Health Homes Program Clean-Up: Dead (2 year bill)
In 2013, Governor Brown signed AB 361 (Mitchell), which authorized the state to take advantage of an Affordable Care Act optional Medi-Cal benefit, now referred to as the Health Homes Program (HHP). The intent of AB 361 was to ensure that in California HHP funds services to help Medi-Cal beneficiaries experiencing chronic homelessness to access housing stability. This clean-up legislation would remove language around restricting state funding and also require health plans to implement benefits in ways that would make the program more meaningful.
ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry) Affordable Housing and Public Infrastructure Voter Approval: Dead
This bill would have reduced the local vote threshold for approval of bond and special tax measures to fund the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of public infrastructure or affordable housing from a two-thirds vote to a 55-percent majority. This measure would have been placed on the November 2020 ballot for voter approval.
SCA 1 (Allen) Repeal of Article 34 in the California Constitution: Dead
The California Constitution prohibits the development, construction, or acquisition of a low-rent housing project until a majority in the jurisdiction vote to approve the project. This measure would have repealed that requirement and would be placed on the November 2020 ballot for voter approval.
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.