Governor Brown Slashes Affordable Housing Funds

Gloria Bruce, Deputy Director, East Bay Housing Organizations

With the dissolution of redevelopment on February 1, we have lost the largest state source for affordable housing. Unless we can be particularly creative in identifying new funding sources and changing political will, this decision may well result in displacement, instability, and even homelessness for thousands of Californians.

Often missed in the debate about redevelopment was the state law requirement for agencies to commit at least 20% of their funding to creating and preserving affordable housing, and that 15% of all housing in a redevelopment area had to be affordable to people of low and moderate incomes.

In recent years, the redevelopment agencies in Oakland and San Francisco were known for prioritizing lower-income housing in redevelopment areas, using the financing as a flexible tool in an era of diminishing public resources. By diverting $1 billion annually from affordable housing funding generated by Redevelopment to other budget “core services”, Governor Brown is actually decimating funding for one of the most essential functions of government – ensuring that people have homes.

While the long-term effects of redevelopment’s demise are unclear, we will prioritize policy and advocacy in 2012 to pursue local and state funding for affordable housing, ensure that affordability and equity are part of regional planning processes, and to win community benefits in local cities and counties. 

Just last week, our partners introduced the California HoMes Act which if passed, will fund development, acquisition, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable homes for Californians on fixed incomes and modest budgets, including emergency shelters, transitional and permanent rental housing, foreclosure mitigation, and homeownership opportunities.

Funded through a $75 document recording fee on real estate transactions, the bill would generate an average of $700 million per year for housing affordable to hardworking families, put construction workers back on the job, and boost California’s economy by creating millions of dollars in new economic activity.   

In short, this would be California’s first “permanent” source of affordable housing funding, setting up a trust fund similar to those in other states. 

EBHO, CJJC and our partners will be tracking this bill and other on-the-ground efforts to ensure that we find ways to build and preserve housing for those who need it most. Creating affordable housing and stabilizing families is still, we believe, the best way to spur the neighborhood revitalization that was the original goal of redevelopment.