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Assemblymember Alex Lee Introduces Bill to Create Social Housing in California

For immediate release:

Today, AB 2881 was introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee to develop social housing for Californians of all income levels. The legislation will establish the California Housing Authority to produce mixed-income housing that is affordable and financially self-sustaining. 

“We need all options on the table as the housing crisis persists. Something vital that's missing in our toolbox is social housing,” said Assemblymember Lee. “Our government has to take a more active role in providing housing, and social housing can scale up our supply of affordable homes without overreliance on limited subsidies. Social housing is a proven solution that we have to embrace in California and a way to deliver housing as a human right.”

Social housing has seen success both nationally and internationally. For instance, Singapore’s social housing model was central to the country’s efforts of solving its housing crisis in the last century. Today, about 80% of residents in Singapore live in social housing flats, and 9 in 10 of these residents own their flats. 

Here in California, the housing shortage and homelessness crisis continues to deepen. According to a 2023 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the population of people experiencing homelessness in California grew by 30.5% from 2007 to 2023. 

In the meantime, the state has to build at least 2.5 million more housing units by 2030, including 1 million homes that are affordable to lower-income households. According to data from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the state built just roughly 85,000 housing units annually including about 15,000 lower-income units from 2018 to 2022. 

Existing strategies to address the lack of affordable housing have not produced nearly enough to meet demand. For instance, The New York Times reported in 2018 that more than 6,500 people applied for only 95 apartments in a new affordable housing development in San Francisco. 

Social housing will complement California’s ongoing efforts to tackle the housing crisis. Unlike the current model of affordable housing, social housing is financially self-sustaining given that people with higher incomes will subsidize low-income units. Social housing avoids the problem of concentrated poverty by creating mixed-income neighborhoods. This strategy fosters economic opportunities, while preserving affordability in the community. 

Further, the housing units will be protected from being sold or transferred to private for-profit entities. Residents will also be granted the same protections as tenants in private properties, including protection against termination without just cause or for any discriminatory, retaliatory or other arbitrary reason. 

Social housing is a model that’s gaining momentum in the U.S. Both the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, Maryland, and the Capitol Area Development Authority in Sacramento have successfully implemented the mixed-income model. Last year, Seattle passed a ballot initiative to create a social housing developer. Legislation has also been recently introduced in New York State to establish a social housing development authority. 

In California, Assemblymember Lee was the first state legislator to propose social housing legislation in 2021. 

“I am encouraged by the immense progress we’ve made since I took office,” said Assemblymember Lee. “Last year, our social housing bill sailed through the Legislature, and I delivered a social housing bill to the Governor’s desk. Now, I’m proud to continue my efforts pushing for social housing for all.”