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Bill to Pursue Social Housing in California Introduced

For immediate release:

Today, AB 309 was introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee to affirm that social housing can be a tool that addresses the shortage of affordable homes for all income levels in California.

In 2018, California ranked 49th among the United States in housing units per resident in 2018, and it’s estimated that an additional 180,000 new units of housing would need to be built each year to meet demand. 

Due to the high cost of living, California has been losing lower and middle-income residents who have been priced out as more than two in five households spent over 30% of their income on housing, and more than one in five households spent over half 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. 

Further, 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.

“California needs all the tools we can to help tackle the housing crisis – and with social housing which is modeled off successful examples throughout the world, we can develop homes for the social benefit of all people,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee. “I’m proud to continue the charge for social housing to fill missing gaps, provide affordable housing for all, and move toward a more equitable future with dignified housing for all strata of society.”

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

  • 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. 
  • In contrast to public housing, which began as segregated housing for low-income residents and 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 several developments in Montgomery County, Maryland, as well as attractive, affordable housing for people of different income levels in Vienna and Singapore.

This model of housing avoids issues associated with public housing, because social housing can be built and maintained without relying on government subsidies, which are in short supply. Social housing also avoids the problem of concentrated poverty, by creating mixed-income neighborhoods. This strategy fosters economic opportunities, while preserving affordability to low-income households in the community.

The bill is jointly authored by Assemblymembers Ash Kalra (D-San José) and Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) and co-authored by Assemblymembers Chris Ward (D-San Diego), Steve Bennett (D-Ventura), and Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) and Senators Caroline Menjivar (D-Van Nuys), Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

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