By Toni G. Atkins
California’s housing crisis is plunging families and individuals into poverty, threatening our children’s futures, splitting up families, making it difficult for businesses to attract and retain talent, and burdening our economy. Housing instability sends ripples throughout all facets of our society, affecting education, physical and mental health, transportation, and climate action.
I recognized this growing problem more than 20 years ago while working as a policy aide at the city level and began working to strengthen San Diego’s affordable-housing efforts after being elected to the City Council.
The governor and the Legislature gave the issue the sense of urgency it demanded in 2017, when we passed a package of 15 bills that addressed the crisis with a mix of regulatory reform and revenue measures, including my Senate Bill 2, which created a permanent source of funding for affordable housing.
In 2018, we followed up with additional measures to remove barriers in the way of housing construction, as well as significant budget funding for communities throughout the state to combat homelessness. That funding has begun making its way to projects and programs in the San Diego region aimed at connecting homeless residents with housing and preventing those at risk from falling into homelessness.
This year, we continued our progress with additional regulatory reform, protections against unreasonable evictions and exorbitant rent increases, and another $2.5 billion to address homelessness and housing instability, the largest such direct investment in state history.
But even before 2017, the state was increasing its investments in targeted housing programs that have resulted in thousands of new affordable homes.
Since 2015, the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program that I was proud to champion as Assembly speaker has used proceeds from our innovative cap and trade system to create more than 9,000 affordable homes near transit, including more than 1,000 in San Diego. The latest project in San Diego to receive such funding is one at 13th and Broadway in East Village that will provide 273 apartments with supportive services for people experiencing homelessness.
And thanks to the voters who passed Proposition 41 in 2014, the Veterans Housing and Homelessness Program (VHHP) has funded nearly 2,600 new homes for struggling veterans, including 323 in San Diego County. A great VHHP-funded project is Zephyr Apartments in Grantville, which opened earlier this year, providing 84 homes with supportive services and close access to the trolley.
Going forward, these are the kinds of results I’ll be looking for as our more recently passed measures are implemented, and I’ll be monitoring them closely to ensure that they are effective.
At the same time, I will be intimately involved in efforts to stimulate the production of the new middle- and lower-income housing that is so desperately needed along our transit corridors and near job centers, making sure that residents in potentially affected communities are key participants in the conversation.
— Toni G. Atkins represents District 39 in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter @SenToniAtkins.