In just the first few weeks of the 2020 legislative session, we have seen a flurry of activity with housing bills from last year taking effect, 2-year bills coming back for again, and new legislation specifically targeting the homelessness crisis all moving forward. We also have the Governor’s proposed budget and executive actions newly released, with detailed steps to combat the growing homeless numbers throughout the state.
Recently Enacted Legislation: Last fall, the Governor signed 13 major housing bills, effective January 1 of this year, to help combat the homelessness crisis and spur housing development.
2-year bills: Legislation that stalled last year have another chance to move forward during this second year of the 2-year session. Most notably, SB 50 (Wiener) was amended January 6th after months of negotiations with the author’s office and various stakeholders to provide more local flexibility to jurisdictions, addressing concerns raised last year. Senator Wiener has until the end of January 31st to move it out of the Senate and into the Assembly. AB 725 (Wicks) would require that at least 50% of a suburban or metropolitan jurisdiction’s share of the regional housing need for above moderate-income housing be allocated to sites with zoning that allows at least 2, but no more than 20, units of housing. AB 953 (Ting)/SB 773 (Skinner) providing technical clean-up to AB 68 (Ting), AB 881 (Bloom) and SB 13 (Wieckowski) from the 2019 Legislative Session to ensure clarity of the ministerial approval process.
2020 Introduced bills: SB 5 (Beall), vetoed by the Governor last fall, returns as SB 795 this year. SB 795 creates an on-going state funding source to work with cities to tackle the current affordable housing crisis and would support continued in-state construction through this tax revenue reallocation. AB 1851 (Wicks) which would require local agency to ministerially approve a developer’s request to reduce or eliminate parking requirements that would otherwise be imposed on the development if the project qualifies as a faith-based organization affiliated project. AB 1845 (L.Rivas) creating the Governor’s Office to End Homelessness, serving as the lead entity for ending homelessness in California. AB 1907 (Santiago) temporarily, until January 2029, exempting homeless housing, emergency shelters, supportive and affordable housing from CEQA if certain conditions are met. AB 1924 (Grayson) This bill would require that a fee levied or imposed on a housing development project by a local agency be proportionate to the square footage of the proposed unit or units
Governor’s Actions – Budget and Executive Orders: On January 10th, Governor Newsom released his proposed 2020-21 State Budget. The budget proposes total spending of $222.2 billion. During a lengthy press conference, the Governor spent considerable time discussing increased spending for K-12 schools including special education, outlining a parents agenda which would offer preschool to all four year old children in the next couple of years, presenting new funding to support housing and efforts to alleviate homelessness, outlining a proposal to expand Medi-Cal to cover undocumented seniors, and suggesting a $4.75 billion climate resiliency bond.
Newsom’s budget rollout at the start of his second year as governor also proposes an array of actions to reduce homelessness, which includes $750 million for a new state fund dedicated to getting people off of the streets and into supportive housing. The California Access to Housing and Services Fund with a $750 million initial investment. This Fund will create a structure for developing affordable housing units, supplementing and augmenting rental subsidies, and stabilizing board and care homes. The budget also calls for state-funded trailers and a $695 million boost to Medi-Cal to address the health needs of the chronically unsheltered populations.
Homelessness is an issue for both urban and rural communities throughout the state, and puts stress on public resources, from emergency rooms to jails to local public works. It is an incredibly complex social services problem and must be combatted at its root causes, which is why the Budget introduces several new strategies and additional funding to build on the $1.15 billion provided to local governments in the last two budgets.
Specific allocations to housing and homelessness:
Housing – A total of 6.8 billion is being invested in housing this year, including:
- 1.75 billion unspent from the 2019 budget added to this year’s budget
- 250 million allocated to cities and counties with 125 million for technical assistance locally in January with an additional 125 million regionally in February
- 500 million for the infill infrastructure grant program – 85 million is available now – 415 million to go out in competitive process to be released this April
- Half a billion to the low income tax credit for new construction
- Half a billion for the innovative home building program
- Half a billion to No Place Like Home Program
- 4 billion for transit oriented and infill housing from the Prop 1 measure previously passed by the voters
- 16.5% increase in spending – totaling $1 billion, including:
- $650 million to cities and counties for emergency grants
- $750 million housing and services fund managed by the Dept of social services – focusing on linkages and integrating strategies– job training, rapid rehousing, rent control and engaging landlords
- $695 million boost to Medi-Cal to address the health needs of “chronically unsheltered populations.
Legislators will now begin reviewing the proposed budget and Legislative Budget Committees are expected to convene overview hearings in the coming weeks.
Beyond the Budget, the Governor put forth a number of Executive Actions on January 8th to combat the homeless issues plaguing the state.
- Immediately establish the California Access to Housing and Services Fund. The Fund will receive future state appropriations, as well as donations from philanthropy and the private sector, to provide much needed dollars for additional affordable housing units, providing rental and operating subsidies, and stabilizing board and care homes.
- Identify state-owned land to temporarily house the homeless. The Governor will task the Department of General Services with identifying properties from the digitized inventory of excess state lands created by EO N-06-19 that can be used by local partners, including counties, cities, or non-profit agencies, on a short-term emergency basis to house individuals who are homeless, so long as such usage does not delay affordable housing development.
- Caltrans will be similarly tasked to share a model lease template to allow local partners to use Caltrans property adjacent to highways or state roads in those jurisdictions on a short-term emergency basis to house individuals who are homeless, building on recent partnerships with the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco.
- The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development will be directed to work with local jurisdictions and provide entities to conduct an initial assessment of vacant and decommissioned hospitals and health care facilities that can be used by local partners on a short-term emergency basis to house the homeless.
- The California Department of Food and Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Social Services and the Office of Emergency Services, will be directed to conduct an initial assessment of fairgrounds near jurisdictions where a shelter crisis is in effect.
- Stand up temporary camp trailers from the state fleet. The Governor will direct the Department of General Services to supply 100 camp trailers from the state fleet, and the Emergency Medical Services Authority to deploy modular tent structures, to provide temporary housing and delivery of health and social services across the state. These trailers will be made available to local partners to operate where certain criteria are met.
- Establish a multi-agency state crisis response team. The Governor will create a state crisis response team to assist local governments in addressing street homelessness, comprised of the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Government Operations Agency; the Health and Human Services Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the State Transportation Agency. The strike team shall provide technical assistance and targeted direct support to counties, cities, and public transit agencies seeking to bring individuals experiencing homelessness indoors, and support those entities in bringing those individuals indoors and connecting them with appropriate health, human, and social services and benefits.
On January 22nd, the Governor appointed a new secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Lourdes M. Castro Ramírez, 49, of San Antonio, TX, has been appointed secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Castro Ramírez has been president of the University Health Systems Foundation since 2017. She was principal deputy assistant at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2015 to 2017. Castro Ramírez was president and chief executive officer at the San Antonio Housing Authority from 2009 to 2015. She held several positions at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles from 1999 to 2009, including director of housing assistance programs, interim director of the resident relations department, and project director for the jobs plus national demonstration program. Castro Ramírez was a community planner at the Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation from 1996 to 1999. She earned a Master of Arts degree in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles.