Inside California’s Struggles to Solve Housing, Homelessness


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California had an affordable housing crisis well before COVID-19. Now the pandemic is having a devastating impact on housing and homelessness.

State leaders are continuing work to make a difference.

For example, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2021-22 State Budget proposal has many short-term investments specifically targeted at housing and homelessness.

“The state continues to make progress in addressing the housing availability and affordability crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Governer’s Office stated. “In addition to the $500 million for infill infrastructure, the Budget also proposes an additional $500 million in low-income housing tax credits to support low-income housing development.

“The Administration is streamlining and reorganizing state housing programs to maximize housing production, while also continuing to support below-market-rate housing.”

Inside the Governor’s Plans for Housing and Homelessness Aid

Many housing advocates say these short-term investments will make a difference.

How will they do that?

By incrementally and meaningfully help to reduce homelessness, increase the supply of affordable housing, protect renters from eviction and discrimination, and address racial inequities that have plagued California state.

But many groups and leaders urge the need for a strategic long-term plan with continuous and sustainable government investments to truly solve these challenges and may take decades in the making.

The state needs “a clear, long-term strategy” that would ensure these investments have “a meaningful ongoing impact on its housing and homelessness challenges,” according to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office in its assessment of the governor’s budget.

The big issue for all of California is affordability.

The governor has unveiled strategies around more housing, more housing, more housing and a range of housing in terms of families living together, caregivers living together, and affordable housing options.

This leads to looming questions: What are the proposed resources for housing and homelessness? Will these help the ever-increasing homelessness problems in California?

The State of Housing and Homelessness in California

Nationwide, more than half of the people experiencing homelessness live in California.

As of January 2019, 27% of people experiencing homelessness in the entire United States are in California. 72% of people experiencing homelessness in the state are unsheltered, which is the highest share of unsheltered homelessness of any state, according to a Homelessness Policy Research Institute report.

Estimates done by the Cato Institute show that California needs 3.5 million housing units by 2025 just to meet current needs. There are an estimated 130,000 homeless people in the state, including around 28,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area and 60,000 in Los Angeles County alone.

Covid-19 relief bill for poverty homelessness for latinos

A rising number of Latinos are living homeless in California, especially in Los Angeles.

Recent figures released by the Los Angeles county show that Latino homelessness shot up by 63% in 2016, a staggering number in a county that saw its overall homeless population soar by 23%, despite increasing efforts to get people off the street.

Latinos are experiencing higher rates of new homelessness (first time and less than a year) than other ethnic and racial groups, according to the Homelessness Policy Research Institute report.

The COVID-19 pandemic is increasing risk for Latinos experiencing homelessness in becoming infected, needing care, and transmission. This could also be exacerbated amid the rising economic impacts of the pandemic.

Criticism that the Plan and Rent Moratorium don’t go far enough

Many questions are raised in concern with the governor’s budget.

The report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), which analyzes the government budget, raised serious concerns over the long-term goal for curbing homelessness and addressing the housing affordability.

The report  states “it is unclear how the administration would target the resources administered by Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and Department of Social Services (DSS) to address homelessness. It is possible that addressing homelessness will not be the principal benefit of these proposals.”

The report also urges some concerns by stating that “the administration proposes providing $250 million to expand Project Homekey in early action. Does the administration have a list of properties ready for purchase and renovation? Would early action allow individuals experiencing homelessness to move in earlier than they otherwise would?”

California needs a 10-year roadmap to reach housing affordability and to end homelessness, according to a CalMatters—a nonpartisan journalism venture committed to explaining how California government works—report.

The report states “initial priorities must include innovative and proven solutions that invest in our values, promote fairness, reimagine growth, protect people and build efficiency. They also right historical wrongs by directing housing resources toward those struggling the most, with an emphasis on Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color.”

What Is Coming in California Next?

With the leadership of Housing California and the California Housing Partnershipthe Roadmap HOME 2030 is coming in March 2021. This will draw on the expertise of a wide spectrum of partners, including affordable housing, homelessness, and tenants’ rights advocates.

The framework of the roadmap will be based on the idea of calling state leaders to build on recent legislative and programmatic efforts to address the housing and homelessness challenges in California.

The roadmap aims to create 1.2 million new affordable homes for low-income Californians, including for those experiencing homelessness, and protect one million low-income renter households from losing their homes, including more than 300,000 who face eviction each year.

Its major goal is to end the racial equity gaps in housing and homelessness by ending homelessness for more than 150,000 Californians who are unhoused every night and over 400,000 who are unhoused throughout the year.

On Jan. 26, 2021, the Roadmap HOME 2030 leaders released an initial package of 12 solutions to urge California state leaders to take swift action during the 2021-22 legislative session. The efforts aim to create or preserve 245,000 affordable homes, preserve 90,000 unsubsidized affordable homes, and provide housing and related services to over one million people per year.

Learn more about the link between health and housing among Latinos by following our work on healthy communities and houses.

Healthy Communities & Housing

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of Latinos are "housing cost burdened"

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