SACRAMENTO (CN) — California could mend its metastasizing housing shortage with a $4 billion bond to create affordable housing projects and expand veteran homeownership programs, lawmakers said late Monday.
The much-anticipated announcement comes after months of negotiations between Democratic leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown, and less than three weeks before the end of the legislative session. The Legislature has until Sept. 15 to pass the bond measure, Senate Bill 3, and send it to voters on the November 2018 ballot.
Democrats said California’s growing housing shortage is barring residents from the American dream.
“We cannot continue to ignore California’s startling lack of affordable housing,” Senate Majority Leader Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement. “In too many of our cities, teachers, police officers, firefighters and service workers – the people we rely on every day to keep us safe, feed us and educate our kids – can’t even afford to live in the communities they serve.”
Despite years of low mortgage rates and rising median incomes since the Great Recession, low-income and average Californians are struggling to keep up with soaring housing costs.
The average California homes costs nearly $500,000 — more than twice the national average — and rents are 50 percent higher than average, according to the state’s legislative analyst. The Golden State is home to 21 of the most 30 expensive rental housing markets and accounts for 21 percent on the country’s homeless population, with an estimated 115,000 homeless people.
Under the proposal by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, $3 billion would be dedicated to new low-income housing projects and $1 billion to subsidized mortgages for veterans.
The state’s Democratic leaders reached an agreement late Monday on the housing bond, the main component of a housing package that also will likely include a new $75 fee on real estate transactions and laws aimed at streamlining planning and development processes.
“We’ve said before: It shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to put a roof over your head, and this agreement will make housing more affordable for many Californians,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, said in a statement.
After passing a $52 billion transportation plan in April and extending the state’s cap-and-trade emissions tax in July, Gov. Brown and state leaders promised action on housing. Final details of the Democrats’ plan should be announced this week. It could be voted on as early as Friday.