Newsom Vows Money, Lawsuits to Ease California Housing Crisis

LOS ANGELES (CN) – California Governor Gavin Newsom promised leaders in Southern California on Tuesday the state would back them financially if they build their share of affordable housing to stem the state’s affordability woes.

At a meeting with Southern California mayors at Long Beach City College on Feb. 19, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state would financially support cities that are working toward reaching their housing development targets – and will take those out of compliance to court. (Martin Macias Jr./CNS)

In his State of the State speech last week, Newsom proposed doling out some of the Golden State’s $21 billion in reserves to cities who do their part to address a statewide housing shortage of over 3.5 million units.

Cities that lay out plans to develop affordable housing and revamp their zoning process can access $250 million in incentives. If they reach their goals, cities can receive $500 million in state grants and an additional $1 billion in tax credits.  

Outside a meeting with dozens of local mayors at Long Beach City College, the former San Francisco mayor said collaboration is critical in tackling the rising cost of living in the state.

“Housing affordability is the issue that impacts our communities more than any other,” Newsom told reporters after the meeting. “We’re losing a generation due to this crisis.”

A 2018 point-in-time count of the state’s homeless population found about 130,000 Californians were homeless – nearly a quarter of the national total, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, which also found that more than 20 percent of state residents live in poverty.

Newsom said the meeting with local officials, including mayors of Montebello, Jurupa Valley and Huntington Park, helped him understand why some of them are on the list of 47 California cities who are out-of-compliance with state housing development regulations.

Montebello Mayor Jack Hadjinian, whose city was named in the State of the State speech as one that isn’t meeting housing targets, said he was glad Newsom participated in the candid meeting.

“Unlike his predecessor, [Newsom] actually came here and I commend the governor for that,” Hadjinian said. “I’m not mad at him for calling us out. We see this as an opportunity.”

Although Tuesday’s meeting had a diplomatic overtone, Newsom stopped short of saying he won’t take cities to court to get them to comply with statewide housing development goals.

The state sued Huntington Beach last month, claiming the coastal Orange County city blocked or ignored the state’s housing development rules.

Newsom acknowledged the discomfort the lawsuit might have caused city leaders across the state.

“We started aggressively. I’m not naive about that,” Newsom said, adding many cities have already been sued by local housing advocates. “But I can’t promise that there won’t be more lawsuits.”

Los Angeles, which missed its housing construction target of 82,000 last year, is also on the out-of-compliance list.

Newsom has also proposed supporting low-income families in the state by launching free preschool options and improving access to kindergarten programs in the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Part of his economic stimulus also includes $500 million in one-time spending to help local governments fast-track construction of homeless shelters.

Before the meeting on Tuesday, Newsom joined Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia in a tour of the Century Villages at Cabrillo, a 27-acre supportive housing complex for veterans and families.

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