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Affordable Housing Bill by Santa Monica Lawmaker Clears Hurdle

 
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

July 14, 2017 -- A bill authored by Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) that would channel more money to local governments to finance construction of affordable housing cleared a hurdle Wednesday.

AB 1568 -- which passed out of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on a 5-to-1 vote -- allows local jurisdictions to use any increase of receipts for local sales and use taxes to finance affordable housing.

If enacted, the “Neighborhood Infill Finance and Transit Improvements Act” would require local governments to use 20 percent of the bounty for housing for extremely low- to moderate-income earners.

“AB 1568 opens up a new source of financing for affordable housing construction,” Bloom, a former Santa Monica mayor, said after the senate committee vote.

“This bill is about reinvesting in our communities, revitalizing neighborhoods and building more affordable housing in dense, transit-rich areas.”

California’s need for housing is rapidly outpacing the supply, but the shortage is most startling for lower income earners, according to several recent studies.

Experts say the problem is worsening as rents -- especially in areas like Santa Monica -- jump and become affordable only to high-income earners ("Santa Monica Rents Continue to Rise, New Survey Finds," July 5, 2017).

One nationwide study from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found almost 60 percent of tenants were paying too much income towards rent.

The Los Angeles-Orange County metro area was much worse.

The same study found almost 60 percent of renters were “burdened,” a term which means more than 30 percent of their income went to pay rent, creating the need for cutting back on other basic necessities, such as food and health care.

Bloom’s bill is winding its way through the state Legislature as city and county governments across California -- including Santa Monica -- scramble to replace the state funding for affordable housing that dried up after redevelopment agencies were abolished in 2011 ("Santa Monica Will Pay $57 Million to End Battle with State Over Redevelopment Agency Funds," October 25, 2013).

In November, Santa Monica voters approved dual measures raising the sales tax a one-quarter of one-percent, bringing the City about $7 million annually for affordable housing ("Santa Monica Hoping Election Cleared Way for Affordable Housing," November 9, 2016).

Despite its efforts, the City has regularly failed to meet the affordable housing mandate approved by voters in 1990 that requires 30 percent of all multifamily housing completed in each fiscal year be affordable. ("Construction of Affordable Housing in Santa Monica Expected to Drop Again," February 7, 2017).

City officials are hopeful the Downtown Community Plan -- which received a preliminary nod from the City Council Tuesday -- could help alleviate Santa Monica's affordable housing shortage ("Plan for Santa Monica's Downtown Receives Initial Nod from City Council," July 13, 2017).

The plan paves the way for nearly 6,000 new multi-family units through 2030, with between 15 percent and 20 percent reserved as affordable housing.

Last month, members of the state Senate and Assembly approved legislation to streamline permits for some housing developments and bring to a public vote a proposed $3 billion bond to fund affordable housing, as well as to build supportive housing for the state’s homeless population.

Bloom said his bill would help ease a worsening housing shortage throughout California.

“Building housing, especially affordable housing, has undoubtedly becoming more challenging without redevelopment agencies,” Bloom said. “This bill will ease some of those challenges and help locals increase the housing supply.”

AB 1568 measure has support from a broad coalition of environmental, labor, and housing organizations. It now heads to the Senate Transportation & Housing Committee.

 


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