Almost exactly a year ago, the California legislature passed SB 5, a hotly debated affordable housing bill co-authored by state Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose).
“We fundamentally had two concepts for the bill,” Beall explains. “That the state needed to be engaged in the housing issue, and that the state needed to be engaged on an on-going basis, not just occasionally, or intermittently.”
Had it been enacted, the bill would have allocated $2 billion annually over five years for affordable housing projects, favoring transit-oriented developments statewide.
Gov. Gavin Newsom ultimately vetoed SB 5, citing budget constraints. Of particular concern was the source of SB 5’s funding: property taxes that were originally allocated to the state’s schools, and then “backfilled” with dollars from the state’s general fund.
Beall took those criticisms to heart and has since revived his affordable housing legislation as SB 795, which was tweaked to address the governor’s fiscal concerns. Instead of drawing from property taxes, the new bill would pull straight from the state’s general fund, thereby alleviating concerns that schools would lose money.
For Beall, the issue of housing is a visceral one, having personally experienced homelessness as a teenager when his family’s house burned down. In his view, he says, past housing bills haven’t solved the issue because none of them have addressed it as an ever-evolving need. “The state has never developed on-going funding for affordable housing,” Beall asserts. “The reason why you need an on-going program is it takes time to build affordable housing. If you only put in money for the next year it doesn’t help that kind of project, because there’s so much lead time in building housing.”
In addition to creating an ongoing fund to address the housing shortage, SB 795 would allocate $195 million a year towards tackling the effects of climate change, with roughly half of the money ($100 million) funding the Climate, Sea Level, and Natural Disaster Program, and the other half going to community development job creation.
“This is the time to change things, not to just go into a bunker mentality,” Beall says emphatically. “If we want to solve this issue, then housing should become part of the regular, on-going program of the state.”
SB 795 comes up for a vote on May 26.