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California Social Housing Act Advances to Senate, Signaling Momentous Housing Paradigm Shift

For immediate release:

AB 2053, the California Social Housing Act, passed out of the Assembly and is now headed to the Senate. AB 2053, by Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San José) establishes Social Housing in California by creating the California Housing Authority (CHA) to produce and preserve mixed-income housing that is sustainable, collectively owned, affordable for all income levels, and is financially self-sustaining. 

“Social Housing means we take the profit motive out of building affordable housing,” said Assemblymember Lee. “For too long our governments have delegated the provision of housing almost entirely to for-profit actors — by owning all the responsibility, we can own all the transformative social benefits of building homes for all.”

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. 

“The approval of the State Assembly signals an important paradigm shift in how we view housing — not as a commodity, but as a human right,” said Assemblymember Lee.

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. 

Social Housing is also financially self-sustaining — people with higher incomes will subsidize low-income units and allow housing developments to become revenue-neutral. 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, and remaining funds will be used for community development and repairs. 

This mixed-income model has been successfully implemented around the world, 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 jointly authored by Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) and Ash Kalra (San José) and co-authored by Assemblymembers Steve Bennett (D-Ventura), Mia Bonta (D-Oakland), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Chris Ward (D-San Diego) as well as Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), and Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach).

“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,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee.

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