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AB 2053, the California Social Housing Act Introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee

For immediate release:

Today, Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San José) introduced AB 2053 to establish Social Housing in California. AB 2053 will create the California Housing Authority (CHA) to produce and preserve mixed-income homes that are union built, sustainable, collectively owned, affordable for all income levels, and are financially self-sustaining. 

While the average Californian earns $63,783 annually, the median price of a home is roughly $800,000, more than double the national average. In California, more than two in five households currently spend over 30% of their income on housing, and more than one in five households spend over 50% of their income on housing. Families who pay more than 30% of their income for housing are considered rent burdened by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and can have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care. 

Due to the high cost of living, California has been losing lower and middle-income residents, and existing strategies to address the lack of affordable housing have not produced nearly enough to meet demand. Over 97% of cities and counties in California have been unable to produce enough affordable housing, and there are only enough affordable and available rentals for 24% of extremely low income households.

“Despite the dire need for affordable housing, the State does not directly provide housing for the millions in need. Social Housing will fix that,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee. “California needs all the tools we can to help tackle the housing crisis, and learning from successive models around the world, we can create mixed-income, safe, and dignified housing for all strata of society through social housing.”

Social housing is defined as publicly backed, self-sustaining housing that accommodates a mix of household income ranges. 

Social housing benefits:

  • Social housing is protected from being sold to a private for-profit entity for the duration of its life, and residents are granted the same protections (if not stronger) as tenants in private properties.
  • Residents are able to participate in decision making, such as providing the resident perspective to property management or hosting meetings to gather feedback from residents. 
  • Housing for people with higher incomes will subsidize low-income units and allow housing developments to become self-sustaining and revenue neutral. Remaining funds will be used for community development and repairs.

In contrast to public housing which began as segregated housing for low-income residents which concentrated poverty in locations which are socioeconomically isolated, social housing would develop mixed-income projects in desirable locations close to transit, parks, and recreation. By allowing for cross-subsidization as a social benefit, the goal is for tenants to spend no more than 30% of their income on rent.

Social housing has been successful across the globe, including CADA in Sacramento, several developments in Montgomery County, Maryland, as well as attractive, affordable housing for people of different income levels in Vienna and Singapore.

The bill is joint authored by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and co-authored by Senator Scott Wiener.

“It is imperative the Legislature continue to explore creative housing models that provide opportunities for tenants and homeownership. Los Angeles is the epicenter of housing insecurity, and rapid gentrification is causing massive rent increases and making dreams of homeownership seem out of reach,” said Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles). “Policy initiatives, like social housing, will provide affordable housing options for Angelenos and Californians alike who continue to experience displacement and lack a housing safety net. The Legislature and local governments must work together to stabilize our housing crisis. I look forward to working on this very important measure.”

“With social housing, we can fill missing gaps, provide affordable housing for all, and move toward a more equitable future with mixed-income, safe, and dignified housing for all strata of society,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee.

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