Housing Justice Community Unites Around Critical Budget Investments
FMI: Email [email protected]
February 22, 2022
Re:2022-23 Housing Equity Budget Priorities
Dear Governor Newsom, President Pro Tempore Atkins, Speaker Rendon, Senator Skinner & Assemblymember Ting:
Thank you for your leadership during these challenging times and for making housing equity a priority for California. We are a coalition of housing justice organizations that have come together to ensure that state policymakers address our affordable housing crisis in a manner that targets investments toward our most vulnerable communities and also ensures that such investments further their health and environmental justice.
The Governor’s January Budget proposal focuses on “Housing as a Climate Strategy” by streamlining housing production near schools, jobs, transit, and density hubs as a response to climate change. In total, the Governor’s proposed 2022-2023 budget dedicates a total of $9 billion for housing and $8 billion on homelessness, but only $1 billion of the projected budget surplus is proposed for those areas. Given this budget surplus, the Governor’s budget missed the opportunity to further prioritize affordable housing, tenant protections & housing stability. We urge him and legislative leaders to prioritize the programs in our letter.
Housing is critical for a healthy recovery from the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our collective well-being depends on everyone having a safe place to live and shelter in place, and yet far too many families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. A recent Los Angeles Times poll found that almost 4 in 10 voters had either experienced homelessness or housing insecurity in the last year (11%) or know someone who has (25%). Unfortunately, it’s not just in Los Angeles. Research from the California Housing Partnership shows that very low-income (VLI) households earning 50% of AMI or below can afford average asking rents in only three California counties, none of which are located in the state’s major population centers. Low-income renter households face significant difficulty affording rents in all parts of the state. It is this economic reality that keeps voters continuing to rate housing and homelessness as top priorities. For example, 94% of voters in that Los Angeles Times poll viewed homelessness as a serious or very serious problem.
This dire situation is not evenly distributed. Our state’s wealthy residents have fared exceedingly well during the pandemic, as have certain industries and markets, with a second year of tens of billions in budget surplus as a result. (According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state can invest $3 - $8 billion of the General Fund surplus in new ongoing expenditures given continued surplus projections.) This tale of two recoveries that California is experiencing makes it all the more critical that you continue investing boldly in affordable housing, tenant protections, and housing stability.
In light of this urgency, we respectfully request that the state budget include a total of $12.85 billion for housing justice proposals (not including ERAP gap funding) that meet the ongoing housing and homelessness crises with the urgency and scale that they demand:
- Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program - Building on legislative efforts to keep Californians housed throughout the pandemic and protect renters from eviction, we continue to urge support for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) to pay 100% of retroactive and several months of prospective rent as well as utilities for Californians unable to pay their rent due to the pandemic. Record unemployment and loss in hours and wages have left many Californians struggling to pay rent and utilities, including water, power, and gas. In recognition of this hardship, as well as lengthy system delays, language access problems, and at times a misleading communications campaign, we urge the Governor and Legislature to continue to work with community and equity partners to improve the program and ensure the rollout of funds is as quick as possible. We also implore the Governor and Legislature to critically examine and improve the ERAP process so renters and landlords can receive the full benefits of the rental assistance program.
Additionally, we urge you to continue efforts to secure substantial additional funding for ERAP from the federal government in light of the fact that the state’s needs have far outpaced the original allocations from Washington. Should any future allocations from Treasury be insufficient to serve all eligible applicants, the state should be prepared to invest general funds in this program to cover any gap and should ensure that eviction protections remain in place until such time as all eligible applicants have been served. Towards that end, we support the legislature’s and Governor’s commitment to supplement federal funds to meet the needs of Californians.
- $5 Billion for a Statewide Homelessness Rental Assistance Program - With over 161,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night, California is home to a quarter of the nation’s entire homeless population. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened our homelessness crisis by putting hundreds of thousands of Californians into financial distress and either on the brink of or experiencing homelessness. Rates of homelessness among BIPOC also reveal a sobering picture of racial inequity in California. We know that rental assistance is a proven way to get people off the street quickly and keep them housed permanently. Therefore we urge the Legislature and Governor to create a new statewide rental assistance program to quickly house people experiencing homelessness. With $5 billion we could house 50,000 people and keep them housed for a period of 5 years.
- $150 Million for Eviction Prevention and Defense. The looming expiration of eviction protections at both the local and state levels while tenants continue to face mounting rent debt, the inability to restore their incomes to pre-pandemic levels, and significant challenges in successfully securing assistance through the ERAP program speak to a continued need to invest in prevention of evictions and homelessness. While the Governor vetoed AB1487 (Gabriel, 2021), his veto message recognized the need to “ provide better, more comprehensive, and culturally competent legal aid to renters impacted by COVID to ensure they can access all of the protections afforded to them under California's strong rental assistance and tenant protection laws.” The Governor’s message encouraged the pursuit of a budget allocation for the specific funding and service delivery model contemplated by AB 1487. While recent allocations broadly providing for housing-related legal services are critically important to address the ongoing housing crisis, there is a complementary need to fund services specifically designed to prevent evictions driven by the COVID pandemic by coupling outreach and education around tenants’ rights and obligations and resources available to them and their landlords, such as the ERAP program. The model contained in AB 1487 is a proven model that is working to address these issues in local communities, such as under the StayHousedLA program in Los Angeles, and we request an allocation of $150 million to create a fund for competitive grants to establish and expand such programs throughout California.
- $200 Million for Reentry Housing under AB 1816. This proposal would fund the Reentry Housing and Workforce Development Program, which would provide grants to support housing, housing-based services, and employment interventions to allow recently incarcerated individuals to exit homelessness and remain stably housed.
$1 Billion for Preservation of Affordable Housing, including:
- $500 Million for the Community Anti-Displacement and Preservation Program (CAPP). This proposal would fund the acquisition of currently unsubsidized affordable rental housing, enabling mission-driven organizations to purchase these buildings and preserve them as affordable. A $500 million investment in the program could create 4,000 to 4,5000 deed-restricted units.
- $500 Million for Preservation of Deed-Restricted Affordable Housing with Expiring Covenants.
$5 Billion for the Multifamily Housing Program, with additional allowable uses for:
- The Housing Accelerator Fund. Continue to fund the construction of shovel-ready affordable housing projects awaiting bond financing.
- Provide $1 Billion towards Capitalized Operating Subsidy Reserves to provide services and subsidies for deeply affordable and supportive housing.
- $500 million to Expand the State Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program, including a $25 million set-aside for farmworker housing.
This list is not comprehensive--there are various other budget requests supported by housing justice advocates this year. However, we highlight the proposals listed above because they share broad consensus of support among the housing justice community.
We look forward to continuing to work with your offices to address California’s critical affordable housing needs.
Housing Now! CA
- Housing Now!- Francisco Dueñas, Executive Director
- Housing California- Christopher Martin, Policy Director
- ACCE, Christina Livingston- Executive Director
- PolicyLink- Chione Flegal, Managing Director
- Western Center on Law & Poverty- Michael Herald, Director of Policy Advocacy
- Public Advocates- Richard Marcantonio & Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, Managing Attorneys
- Inner City Law Center- Alexander Harnden, Public Policy Advocate
- National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter- Rebecca Gonzales, Director of Government Relations
- East Bay Housing Organizations- Jeffrey Levin, Policy Director
- Santa Barbara Tenants Union- Lucia Trujillo, Volunteer
- Bend the Arc Jewish Action: Southern California- Nitzan Barlev, Housing Justice Chair
- Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE) - Rev. Samuel J, Casey, Executive Director
- LA Forward- David Levitus, Executive Director
- Asian Pacific Environmental Network- Vivian Huang, Co-Director
- Thai Community Development Center- Chanchanit Martorell, Executive Director
- Mission Economic Development Agency- Luis Granados, Chief Executive Officer
- PICO California- Joseph Tomás Mckellar, Executive Director
- California Democratic Renters Council- Mari Perez-Ruiz, Chair
- Berkeley Tenants Union- Paola Laverde, Chair
- Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco - Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer, Executive Director
- Tenemos Que Reclamar Y Unidos Salvar La Tierra - Oscar Monge, Associate Director
- Public Health Justice Collective - Katherine Schaff, organizer
- Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability- Jovana Morales Tilgren, Housing Policy Coordinator
- Prevention Institute- Juliet Sims, Associate Program Director
- Tenants Together- Shanti Singh, Legislative and Communications Director
- Monument Impact - Debra Ballinger, Executive Director
- Center for Community Action & Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) - Marven Norman, Policy Specialist
- Mi Familia Vota- Theresa Zamora, Active California State Director
- California Community Land Trust Network- Leo Goldberg, Executive Director
- Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County- Milt Krantz, Board Member
- First Wednesdays San Leandro- Ginny Madsen, Founding member
- American Federation of Teachers Local 2121- Athena Waid,
- Power California - Luis Sanchez, Executive Director
- Democratic Socialists of America, Silicon Valley Chapter- Patrick Chaffey, Housing Working Group Chair
- Faith in Action Bay Area - Lorena Melgarejo, Executive Director
- Faith in Action East Bay- Valeria Ochoa, Community Organizer
- Community Power Collective- Carla De Paz, Director of Organizational Strategy
- California Reinvestment Coalition- Jyotswaroop Bawa, Chief of Organizing and Campaigns
- Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice- Guillermo Torres, Director of Organizing
- Coalition for Economic Survival- Larry Gross, Executive Director
- Oakland Community Land Trust- Steve King, Executive Director
- Bet Tzedek Legal Services- Diego Cartagena, President & CEO
- Faith in the Valley- Dr. Janine Nkosi, Regional Advisor
- Esperanza Community Housing- Nancy Halpern Ibrahim, Executive Director
- Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)- Rita Medina, Deputy Director of State Policy and Advocacy
- Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (FHANC)- Caroline Peattie, Executive Director
- Housing Equality & Advocacy Resource Team (HEART L.A.)- Dianne Prado, Executive Director
- The People’s Resource Center- Jorge Rivera, Executive Co-Director
- BAFCA, a project of Tenants and Owners Development Corporation- Bobbi Lopez, Director of Policy
- Public Counsel- Faizah Malik, Senior Staff Attorney
- San Gabriel Valley Tenants’ Alliance- Jorge Rivera
- Alliance for Community Transit - Los Angeles, Laura Raymond, Director
- Latino Equality Alliance/ Alianza Latina por la Igualdad- Eddie Martinez, Executive Director
- Social Justice Learning Institute- Derek Steele, Interim Executive Director
- Progressive Asian Network for Action- Taiji Miyagawa,
- California Alliance for Retired Americans- Dwane Camp, Jr. Legislative Director
- Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance- Alexandra Suh, Executive Director
- Abundant Housing Los Angeles- Leonora Camner, Executive Director
- The Sidewalk Project- Soma Snakeoil, Executive Director and Co-Founder
- The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA)- Tiffany Eng, Interim Co-Director, Programs
- Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)- Maricela Morales, Executive Director
- City Heights Community Development Corporation - Laura Ann Fernea, Executive Director
- Parable of the Sower Cooperative- Aleta Alston Toure, Coop Member
- Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Jazmine Johnson, Land Use and Health Program Manager
- Eviction Defense Network- Elena I. Popp, Executive Director
- Monterey County Renters United- Esther Malkin, Founder
- United Way Greater Los Angeles- Tommy Newman, Vice President, Engagement & Activation
- ACLU California Action- Kevin Baker, Director of Governmental Relations