Bringing California Home

It’s a little early to be checking “done” on the last big task of the Assembly’s to do list, but we’ve taken a major step in that direction with our vote to advance some great housing bills.

In January, Assembly Democrats began our session by setting some goals, and housing was near the top.

We knew a new president would throw some challenges at California – a state in which he was humiliated at the polls – but we listed what we would want to accomplish, no matter who was in the White House.

It was a road map and it was a way to hold ourselves accountable for getting the work done.

Number one, we said we’d work for “safe and efficient transportation.” Our big transportation plan is already law, and we’ll start seeing dividends from that soon.

The very next thing on our list was “affordable housing, available near to where people work.”

We know California needs 180,000 new units every year for the next 10 years to meet demand. To put that in perspective, that’s more households than now exist in all of Santa Barbara County, almost as many as Sonoma County.

Moreover, most Californians are spending too much on what housing they do have.

So we targeted housing and passed housing legislation.

The success owes something to nearly every member, but bringing things forward owes a lot to Assemblymembers David Chiu, Richard Bloom, and Rob Bonta.

These bills are aimed squarely at helping Californians who are finding it hardest to locate housing near work that doesn’t eat up all their income.

A big piece is a $4 billion bond for affordable housing.

This bond is an investment so California can develop places to live in a way that will enhance communities, boost the economy and be located so that low- and middle-income residents can live there and get to work.

We’ve also created a permanent source of housing funding that goes primarily to local governments to fill local needs and taken up legislation to address project streamlining.

That is an antidote to complaints that Sacramento takes away from local governments for state projects.

For accountability’s sake we also strengthened enforcement of existing laws on affordability goals.

Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin’s plan for a $1 billion boost to California’s nearly century-long commitment to our veterans is a key piece of the bond we approved.

The Cal-Vet Loan Program has helped more than 400,000 veterans to buy farms and houses since its inception. In the past decade, Cal-Vet has also served the men and the growing number of women who have served in conflicts post-Vietnam, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

California and the Assembly have a great track record, but this is the first time funding for the program will reach the $1 billion mark.

It’s a super-successful way of providing low-cost loans to veterans so they can become homeowners. The bond funding method makes sure it doesn’t cost Californians a dime. It’s fully self-supporting.

Some of our cities have a lot of veterans on the streets, so we must keep working to make sure that at more vets can be more secure.

California needs to take these steps. We still await the Governor’s signature, of course, but the Assembly has done its part.

Make no mistake, though. We aren’t done. There are more issues to wrestle with.

We’ll be back with other ambitious goals in 2018.