State needs to help provide affordable housing

San Francisco stands out as a unique and diverse metropolis. Its housing-affordability crisis, however, is not unique in the Golden State.

While San Francisco is well known to be California’s most expensive city, recently declared San Diego to be the least-affordable California city when residents’ incomes are factored in. Thus, when it comes to solutions, San Francisco cannot and need not go it alone. That’s why we’ve introduced a housing bill, AB35, a legislative package to spur affordable-home development, create jobs and maintain the vitality of San Francisco, San Diego and, indeed, our entire state.

California’s shortfall of 1.5 million affordable rental housing units impedes our state’s economic growth. When housing costs are accounted for, the proportion of people unable to meet their basic needs — food, shelter, transportation — rises from 16 percent to 23 percent, the highest rate of poverty in the nation.

A forthcoming report from the California Housing Partnership depicts a growing crisis, with San Francisco at the epicenter, driven by a growing divide between incomes and rents. Statewide, median incomes have fallen 8 percent since 2000; meanwhile, rental prices have soared by 21 percent. There isn’t a single county in California with enough affordable rentals for families struggling to make ends meet.

Rising rents are locking out broad swaths of Californians from San Francisco, San Diego and many other California cities and crowding their families into overcrowded housing. Twenty-one of the nation’s least-affordable cities are in California; our home-health aides, child care workers and teachers’ assistants have virtually nowhere to live in the communities where they work, even if they work full time.

Small businesses and creators of entry-level jobs face particular difficulties recruiting employees. Effectively closing our communities to struggling workers reverberates through our entire economy and impacts all taxpayers.

San Francisco leaders have taken bold action, such as Mayor Ed Lee’s $250 million bond proposal, to build attractive, high-quality apartments that can sustain below-market rents for decades. But local solutions alone are not enough.

California leaders must act to replace the $1.5 billion a year state investment wiped out when voter-approved housing bonds were expended and redevelopment funding was eliminated in 2012.

AB35 would take a step in the right direction by increasing the California Low Income Housing Tax Credit, a proven public-private-partnership model, by $300 million per year, and enable the state to attract $600 million in additional federal funding that would otherwise not come to California.AB1335, another key component of our comprehensive legislative solution, would establish a state housing trust fund to seed rental and homeownership opportunities. For each $500 million in state affordable-home investment, developers could create 29,000 good-paying jobs.

Bipartisan support for AB35 underscores the economic imperative of state action on housing affordability, as do the calls from business organizations across the state — from the Orange County Business Council to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group — that are joining housing and tenant advocates to support the larger package of affordable-home funding bills we’ve put forward in Sacramento.

Go to to tell your California legislator that our state must unleash the homes- and job-creating potential of our cities and help businesses attract workers by supporting AB35 and AB1335.

Written by Toni Atkins, Speaker of the California Assembly; and Assemblymember David Chiu for the San Francisco Chronicle on April 14, 2015.

Share Post