Influencers Opinion

CA renters can’t afford the roof over their heads. Here’s how to bring prices down

Note to readers: Each week through November 2019, a selection of our 101 California Influencers answers a question that is critical to California’s future. Topics include education, healthcare, environment, housing and economic growth. One influencer each week is also invited to write a column that takes a closer look at the issue.

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Californians in communities all over the state are struggling to afford a roof over their head and to keep the roof that they currently have. In survey after survey, Californians say housing affordability is one of the top problems facing the state. That’s why our communities are working hard every day to ensure that quality housing options exist for residents across the income spectrum, regardless of whether the home is for someone who pays rent or pays a mortgage.

That’s also why my organization commended the Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature for providing hundreds of millions of dollars in this year’s state budget to help local governments plan for more housing, invest in infrastructure to support housing and to produce more housing, as well as build emergency shelters and provide services for the homeless. These one-time funding streams are an important down payment on our goal to increase housing supply, a long-term and not a one-budget cycle problem we all must face.


However, our success at increasing housing supply must not be at the expense of displacing from their homes the long-term residents who have been the beacons of stability in so many of our neighborhoods. As market forces and new funding streams spur new housing development or redevelopment of existing housing stock, our renters are feeling the pressure as rental costs increase, exacerbating their risk of being displaced and forced to leave the neighborhood they’ve called home, where they have lived, worked and, in many cases, raised their families.

Yes, we need to increase housing supply in our neighborhoods. However, as we build more housing, we must make sure more affordable rental housing units are produced so that hard working families can continue to call their communities home. Too many families simply cannot afford higher rent prices. More than 3 million California renters are rent burdened already paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing and over 1.7 million are severely rent burdened from paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

Carolyn Coleman

When the state abolished redevelopment agencies as a financing tool for affordable housing in 2011, it wiped out the only source of ongoing and sustainable funding available to local governments to build affordable housing. Since then, local governments have lost billions of dollars to invest in affordable housing.

That’s why cities, along with a broad coalition of labor, local governments, housing advocates and business leaders, are urging the governor to sign Senate Bill 5, the Affordable Housing and Community Development Program. SB 5 creates a long-term partnership between state and local governments, providing much needed funding to spur affordable housing construction, including rental housing, available to very low-, low- and moderate-income families.

Beginning in 2020, SB 5 would allow the state to allocate $200 million annually to local governments. That amount could grow annually and be capped at $2 billion annually. Cities need the state as a partner to help our residents. We need SB 5 – it’s a real solution that will mitigate the pressure of rising rents and displacements facing too many Californians today.

Carolyn Coleman is the executive director of the League of California Cities. She is also a Housing and Transportation influencer for McClatchy’s California Influencer series.
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