On Tuesday April 12th, advocates and activists from across the state went to Sacramento for the annual Housing California-sponsored Lobby Day. Participants met with policy makers and their staff representatives to share concerns and ideas on housing, and hear about pending legislation. Gwen Austin, BOSS Development Associate and Community Builder, attended on behalf of BOSS.
Said Gwen about the day, “I get involved not just because it’s a part of my job but because I want to see social change that is long overdue, and I do this by being an active participant with many other social justice advocates who care about the plight of people, their struggles and their journey. I believe there is some advocacy in all of us. Being part of a social movement is quite a humbling and liberating experience and until there is change, I will continue to fight for affordable housing, equality and justice for all.”
She brought back the following updates on current policy being fought for by advocates across the state.
This initiative is a 5-pronged approach for ending homelessness in California, being advocated for with state elected officials. It includes: 1) a $2 billion bond to fund the creation of 10,000 new supportive housing apartments for chronically homeless people with mental illness; 2) $10,000 for rental assistance and services for about 500 homeless families; 3) $50,000 in Rapid Rehousing assistance for families on CalWORKS; 4) $200 million in rental subsidies; and 5) an unspecified-amount increase in funding for SSI/SSP with funds to incentivize local government to increase outreach to enroll people on SSI/SSP.
Assembly Bill 2502: Protecting Local Inclusionary Housing Laws
Local inclusionary laws mandate that developers creating new rental housing projects also create a small number of units for people with low or very low incomes. In 2009, an appellate court found that these laws conflict with a state law limiting rent control (Costa-Hawkins rent control law) – this created confusion and stifled the creation and enforcement of inclusionary laws. Assembly Bill 2502 would clarify that inclusionary laws do not violate Costa-Hawkins and would create a State law to protect inclusionary laws and affordable housing development.
Assembly Bill 2817: Increasing the State Low Income Tax Credit
Housing developers sell tax credits to investors who pay cash to the developer, who can then use the cash as part of the funding needed to build affordable homes. The investor uses the credit to reduce his/her tax liability. This helps create more housing. Assembly Bill 2817 would increase the tax credit program by $300 million, and increase the tax credits set aside for farmworker housing from $500,000 to $25 million.
Senate Bill 996: Property Tax Exemption for Affordable Housing
Current state law holds that religious, hospital, or charitable organizations who use their owned property for charitable purposes may have their property taxes exempted, but for nonprofits the exemption is capped at $20,000 (hospitals and churches have no annual cap). SB 996 would increase the nonprofit cap from $20,000 annually to $100,000, helping to avoid excessive property tax bills that threaten their ability to continue to provide services.
California has the 15th highest poverty rate in the nation – until you factor in housing costs – then we jump to #1. California is short more than 1.5 million rental homes for very low income renter households. Statewide housing advocates are asking legislators to invest $1 billion from the State’s budget surplus into proven housing programs, including the Multifamily Housing Program (MHP), farm worker housing, CalHOME and other homeownership programs, the Local Housing Trust Fund Matching Grant Program, and more.
With Gwen at this event was Calixthe Lopes, a transfer student from Los Angeles. A UC Berkeley Political Science major and BOSS Social Justice Institute Intern wrote about his experience in Sacramento on Housing Lobby Day:
I am extremely thankful for my involvement with Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, and having been given the opportunity to sit down and have important dialogue with the staff of elected officials that make decisions impacting our everyday lives. It was my first time lobbying, and I must admit it was an amazing and learning experience; by my third office visit, I felt like a professional lobbyist, speaking to the affordable housing crisis that our state is currently undergoing. Most importantly, as a low income college student who grew up depending on many of the state’s social services, I was able to share my story which was plagued with food and housing insecurity. I am really hopeful that my story will help these elected officials understand that we need to make these important investments in affordable housing and the expansion of social services to contain this crisis, and prevent Californians from ever going hungry or homeless due to their social-economic status.
Stay Up-to-Date and Get Involved!
“If history has taught us anything,” says Gwen, “it is that in order to combat injustice wherever it is, it has to be a poor peoples’ movement for change to come about. Remember there is strength and power in numbers – people getting involved.”
To get involved or learn more about local organizing efforts, contact Gwen Austin in BOSS at 510.649.1930 x 1001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on any of these bills or housing legislation in California, contact Housing California at 916.447.0503.