AB 309, a bill to establish social housing in California authored by Assemblymember Alex Lee, passed out of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance by a vote of 5-2 and is now headed to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
AB 309 aims to address the shortage of affordable homes for all income levels in California. The proposed legislation would create the Social Housing Program under the Department of General Services, with the goal of developing social housing on state property.
“Social housing leads with a philosophy of universality, meaning that people within a wide range of income levels are eligible to live in social housing units,” Lee said at the committee hearing on July 12, adding that “social housing will allow us to take a major step forward in addressing the housing crisis.”
Under the amended AB 309, the Social Housing Program would be authorized to develop up to three social housing projects on excess land that’s deemed suitable for housing. It aims to rent out units at no more than 30 percent of residents’ income. Within the program, a home ownership model would be employed as well.
The Social Housing Program is the first step to informing policy on creating an independent public entity that develops and manages social housing statewide.
Due to the high cost of living, more than half of renter households paid over 30 percent of income toward housing in 2017. 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.
“As someone who builds homes, I am also someone who has experienced the burden and struggle of finding affordable and adequate housing,” California renter Luis Romo, who works in the construction industry, said at the committee hearing. “Our current system of housing production falls short in meeting the needs of Californians.”
Romo further expressed his support of AB 309 to help create more affordable housing in California.
“I stand before you today as a working Californian to deliberately state what AB 309 offers, which is a unique opportunity for the state to get involved in the planning and development of new mixed-income communities that will be affordable to people like me,” he said.
Social housing is publicly backed, self-sustaining housing that accommodates a mix of household income ranges:
- States like Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have introduced social housing bills.
- Social housing has been successful across the globe, including attractive, affordable housing for people of different income levels in Vienna and Singapore.
- Social housing residents are granted the same protections as tenants in private properties, including just cause eviction protections.
- 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.
- Residents are able to participate in community decision making, such as providing the resident perspective to property management or hosting meetings to gather feedback.
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 Steve Bennett (D-Ventura), Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), Corey Jackson (D-Perris), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chris Ward (D-San Diego), as well as Senators Caroline Menjivar (D-Van Nuys), Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).