By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media
To advance housing access, affordability and equity, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced earlier this month the creation of a Housing Strike Force.
The team, housed within the California Department of Justice (Cal DOJ), was tasked with enforcing California housing laws that cities across the state have bypassed or ignored.
The strike force will host a series of roundtables across the state to educate and engage tenants and landlords as the state pressures municipalities that violate housing rules and meet housing targets. production of state-fixed housing.
âCalifornia is facing a housing shortage and an affordability crisis of epic proportions,â Bonta said. âEvery day millions of Californians worry about keeping a roof over their heads, and there are too many in this state who are completely lacking in housing.
âIt is a top priority and a fight against which we will not back down. As Attorney General, I am committed to using all the tools at my disposal to advance Californians’ fundamental right to housing.
The Housing Strike Force will take âan innovative and intersectional approachâ to tackle the housing crisis, focusing on tenant protection, housing availability and environmental sustainability, housing affordability and equitable housing opportunities and fair to tenants and landlords.
Bonta has also launched a housing portal on the Cal DOJ website with resources and information for California landlords and renters.
The strike force will draw on the expertise of lawyers from Cal DOJ’s Land Use and Conservation Section, Consumer Protection Section, Civil Rights Enforcement Section and the environmental section’s office of environmental justice in its enforcement efforts.
âCalifornia has a unique opportunity to resolve its housing crisis, thanks to the historic investments of $ 22 billion in housing and homelessness in this year’s budget. But that will only work if local governments do their part in zoning and authorizing new housing, âGov. Gavin Newsom said. âThe Attorney General’s emphasis on the responsibility of cities and counties for equitable housing, equity and housing production is an important part of the state’s efforts to address the affordability crisis. and create greater opportunities for all Californians to have an affordable place to call home. “
According to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the level of ownership of blacks nationwide has fallen below levels reached in decades when housing discrimination was legal.
The 2020 census reports that there was a 29.6% gap between the homeownership rates of African Americans and whites. Homeowners represented 44.6% of the black population compared to 74.2% for whites.
âBlacks have made little or no progress in closing the homeownership gap. Systemic discriminatory regulations and policies continue to thwart any meaningful effort to increase black home ownership, âsaid Lydia Pope, President of NAREB.
In California, the DOJ reports that over the past four decades, housing needs have exceeded housing production. This has sparked a crisis that spans from homelessness to unaffordable housing.
Despite significant efforts, the DOJ said California continues to host a disproportionate share of homeless people in the United States, with around 150,000 Californians sleeping in shelters, in their cars or on the streets.
Bonta said California’s 17 million renters spend a significant portion of their wages on rent, with about 700,000 Californians facing eviction. The high costs of buying a home – the median price of a single-family home in California is over $ 800,000 – has led to the lowest homeownership rates since the 1940s.
Due to decades of systemic racism, these challenges have had a continuing and disproportionate impact on communities of color. For example, Bonta said, nearly half of black households in California spend more than 30% of their income on housing, compared with just one-third of white families.
In addition, less than one in five black households in California could afford to buy the home at the median price of $ 659,380 statewide in 2020, compared to two in five white households in California who could afford to. buy the same home at the median price, the California Association Realtors (CAR) said in a February 2021 release.
The percentage of black home buyers who could afford to purchase an existing single-family home at median price in California in 2020 was 19%, compared to 38% for white households, CAR said.
âJust like the price of a median single-family home hits a new high of over $ 800,000 in California, wherever you look, we are in a housing crisis,â Bonta said at the 3 November.
âAmong all households, one in four tenants pays more than half of their income in rent. “
The Housing Strike Force will address the crisis of scarcity and affordability by enforcing state housing and development laws at arm’s length from the Attorney General and on behalf of DOJ client agencies.
Earlier this year, Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 215, strengthening the simultaneous role of the attorney general in enforcing the state’s housing laws.
AB 215 was designed for reforms, facilitating housing development and tackling the current housing crisis.
Newsom also signed Senate Bills (SB) 9 and SB 10 in September, legislation designed to help increase the supply of affordable housing and speed up production of multi-family housing statewide.
Written by the President of the Senate Pro Tem Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), SB 9 allows a homeowner to subdivide an existing single-family residential lot to create a duplex, triplex or quad.
In response to SB 9, homeowner groups formed across the state to oppose it. The groups cite the challenges they foresee the law will bring to their communities, from garbage collection to the increased risk of fires.
Livable California, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that focuses on housing, is one of the groups opposing the new laws.
âSenate Bill 9 ends the zoning of single-family homes to allow four homes where one is currently located. It was signed by Governor Newsom, supported by 73 of 120 lawmakers and praised by many media. Yet a respected pollster found that 71% of California voters oppose SB 9, âthe Livable California website read.
“It opens 1.12 million homes in severe fire areas at unmanaged density – one-sixth of single-family homes in California,” the post continued. âSB 9 could undesirably reshape hundreds of high-risk fire zones that span both urban and rural California. “
But Newsom says the laws are urgent and overdue.
“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California dream of families across the state and threatening our long-term growth and prosperity,” Newsom said in a Sept. 16 statement.
The SB 10 was designed for jurisdictions wishing to opt for upstream and upstream urbanized areas near public transportation, allowing up to 10 units per plot without California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) oversight.
âPassing strong housing laws is just the first step. To address our severe housing shortage, these laws must be enforced consistently and vigorously, âsaid California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), chair of the Senate Housing Committee. âI applaud Attorney General Bonta’s commitment to rigorously enforce California housing laws. “