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Newsom continues battle against California’s chronic homelessness

Two bills signed by the governor last month are expected to make it easier to get housing built in commercial areas. Funding is also being provided for some “shovel ready” projects statewide to help get them built faster.

 

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed two bills intended to help ease California’s chronic housing crisis.

Senate Bill 6 and Assembly Bill 2011, both of which Newsom signed into law Sept. 28, are designed to simplify housing approval and create thousands of well-paying jobs in the process, according go a statement on the governor’s website.

AB 2011 and SB 6 will both make it easier to build affordable housing in commercial areas where retail, office and parking lots typically take priority over residential development.

Both bills are also expected to create thousands of well-paying jobs and increase the population near transit stations. That will make it easier for people, especially low-income people, to use public transit.

During a news conference in San Francisco, Newsom also announced that $1 billion will be awarded to 30 “shovel-ready” housing projects through the California Housing Accelerator, a move expected to lead to the construction of 2,755 homes statewide.

The housing accelerator program is part of the state Department of Housing and Community Development. It provides funding for housing projects that can’t be completed because they’re unable to get tax credits for financing, credits that are traditionally provided by the department.

The accelerator program has provided nearly $2 billion in support of 57 projects to produce a total of 5,071 units, most of which will be for low-income households and unhoused residents.

“California has made historic investments and taken unprecedented actions in order to tackle the state’s housing crisis over the past four years,” Newsom said in a statement. “But we recognize there’s more work to do.This package of much-needed legislation will help us build new homes while rebuilding the middle class.

AB 2011 was sponsored Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, SB 6 by Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Merced. Combined, they will create affordable housing units for low and middle-income Californians by allowing housing to be built in under-used commercial sites normally use for retail, office, and parking, according to the statement.

“[Both bills] demonstrate that we can make real progress on improving California’s housing outlook, despite the many challenges we face,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, in the statement “AB 2011 shows what can be accomplished when disparate advocates team up on a critical goal.”

Newsom’s approval of both bill is a “monumental step” in the state’s efforts to reverse its housing crisis, Wicks said in a statement on her website.

“No longer will lack of land be an issue,” Wicks said. No longer will there be a lack of incentive for workers to join the construction workforce, and no longer will red tape and bureaucracy prohibit us from building housing in the right locations to address our climate crisis.”

California is the nation’s most populated state, with just under 40 million residents. The state also has a severe housing shortage has caused housing prices, and homelessness, to rise dramatically.

Newsom has called for the construction of approximately 310,000 housing units annually during the next eight years, with each city, town and county responsible for a certain number of units affordable to all levels of income in that area. That would be more than two times the amount that would normally be built in the state in that time, according to reports.

But putting those bills into law won’t, by itself, put a dent into California’s housing crisis, according to one person intimately familiar with the Southern California housing market.

“What Newsom is trying to do can work, but it always comes back to the cost of the land,” said Mike Dwight, former chief executive officer for Frontier Homes in Ontario. “It could be very effective with multi-family, at an acceptable cost, but I’m not holding my breath waiting to see that happen.”

Newsom’s plan to build more than 2.5 million housing units in the next eight years has the same problem, Dwight said.

“The state government says ‘build all of these housing units by certain date,’ but they don’t take into account where the money will come from to build them,” said Dwight, who now works as a housing industry consultant out of his home in Lake Forest in south Orange County. “How all of that will be paid for isn’t taken into consideration.”

But converting retail space to affordable housing units makes sense because it will provide housing and help nearby retail, said Eric Gavin, an Upland resident who has worked with that city and Fontana to reduce their homeless populations.

A former Kohl’s’s store at 8th Street and Mountain Avenue that has been closed for eight years would be ideal for that kind of conversion, according to Gavin.
“It’s near a grocery store, a Home Depot and residential,” Gavin said. “There’s no reason not to convert it, because it would give more people a place to live, and having more income in that area would help the retail there.

“And there’s no reason that affordable housing has to look bad. Rancho Cucamonga put some affordable housing on Foothill Boulevard and it looks gorgeous.”

California’s housing crisis is so severe that that the governor and state legislature had no choice but to intervene, Gavin said.

“It’s way too much for the cities or the counties to solve by themselves,” Gavin said.

Developing housing near rail stations, which both bills aim to do, is also a good idea because it will house people and make it easier for them to use public transit, said Manfred Keil, chief economist with the Inland Empire Economic Partnership.

“If you’ve traveled into Los Angeles on the Gold Line, which I’ve done a few times, it’s amazing to see how many houses have been built around the Gold Line stations,” Keil said.

At the moment, the housing shortage is California’s biggest problem, according to Keil.

“We’re losing people to other states, especially Texas,” Keil said. “Not enough housing is one of our biggest problems, along with regulation overkill. We have to build more houses if we’re going to reman competitive.”

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