My plan for affordable housing, California Homes for All, is a radically different approach to California’s housing crisis, focusing on building to the needs of our communities rather than the profits of real estate developers. It starts from the premise that our state’s housing affordability crisis cannot be remedied by relying on real estate developers and the private market alone. The plan is based on my belief that housing is a human right. It calls for a massive investment in building affordable housing, radically strengthened and universal tenant protections, and new efforts to reverse displacement of vulnerable communities -- alongside zoning changes to open up new housing construction in California’s wealthiest neighborhoods and regions.
The market-based approach spearheaded by our current State Senator will not solve the crisis and, in our own Senate District, it will only accelerate income inequality, displacement and high housing costs. This simplistic supply-side approach has been widely discredited. In fact, recent studies into the effects of market-rate housing indicate that the addition of market-rate housing in a given vicinity results in reduced prices on higher-priced units but increased rents on lower-priced units by up to 17-percent. We cannot solve our housing crisis by simply building more homes for the wealthy. With the fifth largest economy in the world, and 157 billionaires worth more than $700 billion combined, California has the resources necessary to do more. All we need is the independence and courage in the State Senate to guarantee a right to housing.
The people of San Francisco, Daly City, Colma, and South San Francisco deserve a representative in the State Senate who will stand up to the Real Estate lobby, not cater to their profit motives. That is why I took the #HomesGuarantee pledge in the first month of this race and I am the only candidate in State Senate District 11 who has pledged to reject all developer and real estate contributions. In contrast, the incumbent has received more money in campaign donations from the real estate industry during the 2016 or 2018 cycle than any other politician in the California State Legislature, and it shows. In November 2018, San Francisco voters passed a measure to implement a small tax on the wealthiest corporations to secure thousands of units of housing, prevent displacement, and provide behavioral health treatment for unhoused people. He sided with the wealthiest corporations against the measure, and lost. His and other officials’ support could have secured enough of the vote (two-thirds of the electorate) to free the funding immediately. However, because of his and other elected officials’ reticence to stand with the people, the measure fell just short of the two-thirds threshold at 61-percent. Funding is now held up in the courts, and dozens of unhoused people will die on our streets as a result of the delay.
Since the Great Recession, the wealth gap between the lowest and highest income brackets have widened, driving truly affordable housing further and further from the reach of everyday people. This crisis also proves disastrous for our climate as workers are pushed to increasingly lengthy, car-centric commuting patterns that increase traffic congestion and vehicle emissions.
We have an opportunity now for our elected representatives to make a concerted effort to step in and stabilize our housing crisis to serve all Californians struggling to make ends meet. From an Indigenous perspective, the housing crisis traces as far back as colonization, when the commodification of housing--the idea that one should only be housed if one has enough resources to pay for it--began to take hold on this land. Housing should be a human right. In order to ensure a California that’s truly affordable for all, not just those who can afford what the real estate market offers, we need to work toward decommodifying housing and build for need, not for profit.
Here is my vision for a California Homes for All.
$100 billion California Housing Emergency Fund
We can no longer wait for the real estate industry to profitably build our way out of an affordability crisis. If we sincerely want to alleviate the suffering of millions of Californians, we need to build for need, not for profit. As State Senator, I would champion taxes on the wealthiest corporations and billionaires in the state to raise $100 billion of tax revenue for a California Housing Emergency Fund. This fund will provide for:
✔ Removing at least 200,000 existing units from the speculative market and stabilizing their affordability at no-to-low income levels through acquisitions over ten years.
✔ Building at least 100,000 new publicly- or non-profit-owned deeply affordable green homes over ten years, including mixed income social housing. Development would be targeted in cities and regions most acutely facing the affordable housing crisis evidenced by high levels of homelessness, and prioritize building along public transit lines and walkable places. New units would be equipped to rely on electricity generated from renewable energy sources.
✔ Rehabilitating existing publicly owned housing, including energy efficiency and renewable electricity upgrades.
Some real-estate-backed politicians in California claim that the only way to solve the housing crisis is by incentivizing the private real estate industry through various deregulation and “upzoning” policies. They believe the only way to build extremely-low-income (<30% AMI), very-low-income (30-50% AMI), and low-income (50-80% AMI) units is by building disproportionately more housing affordable at only above-moderate incomes (>120% AMI), leveraging a small proportion of “affordable” units on the side. Business as usual entails inequity for working class people and people of color. Reports from the San Francisco Planning Department showed that of all the housing San Francisco built in 2018, only 24% was “affordable.” In 2018, San Francisco achieved 96% of the production target for above moderate income units, but only 15-, 32-, and 45-percent of production targets for moderate (80-120% AMI), low (<80% AMI), and very low (50% AMI) income levels, respectively, under California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (Planning Period 2015-2022).
Private housing developers will build the most profitable housing--that is, the most expensive housing that buyers and renters from around the world are willing to pay for--that they possibly can. We need to increase investment in public and social housing to decommodify housing and make housing a human right. As the national Homes for All platform reads,
confirming housing as a basic right will only happen with a guaranteed public option....social housing refers to permanently affordable, not-for-profit homes, generally owned by the public sector or nonprofit organizations...A truly tenacious commitment to domestic stability and economic opportunity through social housing requires a robust mix of private/nonprofit affordable housing, public affordable housing, and stabilized-but market-rate publicly owned homes to create mixed income housing.
I couldn't agree more.
HOW WE DO IT:
Removing at least 200,000 existing units from the speculative market and stabilizing their affordability at no-to-low income levels through acquisitions.
We need to robustly fund the acquisition of existing homes that are at risk of speculation. Investors have incentives to displace residents and “flip” houses. Acquisition would convert those at-risk units to permanent affordability under nonprofit or land trust ownership. This is the solution brokered between Moms 4 Housing and Wedgewood in the recent Black-mother-led occupation of a vacant Oakland house. This housing “preservation” strategy is just as important as building new affordable and public housing, as by some estimates there are tens of thousands of “naturally occurring affordable homes” throughout the Bay Area. In San Francisco alone, we lose approximately 400 rent-controlled units per year as people are evicted and rental units are “flipped out” of rent protections. Supporting nonprofit organizations and land trusts to acquire these buildings or empowering residents to band together and buy their own building, is the most economical way to stabilize the existing housing stock we have.
Building at least 100,000 new publicly- or non-profit-owned deeply affordable green homes over ten years, including mixed income social housing. Development would be targeted in cities most acutely facing the affordable housing crisis evidenced by high levels of homelessness, and prioritize building along public transit lines and walkable places. New units would be equipped to rely on electricity generated from renewable energy sources.
In places like Vienna, people of all classes pay fair, transparent prices for high-quality publicly owned homes. This structure allows market-rate-paying tenants to subsidize the rent of low income tenants. As a bonus, the no-to-low income tenants experience the same benefits as middle-income tenants (e.g. good neighborhood public schools, infrastructure upgrades, and services usually enjoyed by more affluent communities), and middle-income tenants don’t experience the massive rent spikes that they frequently encounter in the private market.
According to the Homes for All platform, “Socioeconomic integration pays huge dividends for vulnerable communities. It increases the quality of life for low-income families, boosts lifelong individual earnings for future generations, and reduces overall crime rates at the community level.” We need to invest billions into a “robust mix of private/nonprofit affordable housing, public affordable housing, and stabilized-but market-rate publicly owned homes to create mixed income housing.” The key is to keep these units permanently affordable and off of the speculative market by endowing them with rent-control from the beginning.
Secondly, transit-friendly, walkable, and dense communities should be available to ALL Californians, not just the wealthy. San Francisco is experiencing an influx of younger, more-educated and more-affluent tech workers, and a resulting exodus of nonwhite residents. The wealthier newcomers have consumption patterns that reflect higher carbon-footprints, resulting in what one study calls “carbon gentrification.” As written in Sierra Club.org, “less-wealthy people, whose carbon footprint is smaller, are pushed out of dense areas where they could walk to work or school and into suburban areas with cheaper housing. That means they may need to drive more and adopt generally more carbon-intensive lifestyles.” A study of San Francisco by the Stockholm Environment Institute found that 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions caused by in-city consumption and activities were physically emitted beyond city limits. Researchers and equity-concerned urbanists conclude that deeply affordable housing must be part of urban plans for mitigating climate change. As one researcher writes, “the best example of urban sustainability isn’t Manhattan or San Francisco, it’s working- and middle-class neighborhoods with row houses and apartment buildings like much of Brooklyn or South Philadelphia.” That is why I propose targeting investments from the California Housing Emergency Fund for working class affordable homes along public transit corridors and walkable areas.
Lastly, the new homes need to be green, which entails equipping the new units to rely on electricity generated from renewable energy sources.
Rehabilitating existing publicly owned housing including energy efficiency and renewable electricity upgrades.
Black, brown, and poor communities have historically borne the brunt of disinvestment in public housing, and have been relegated to crumbling infrastructure and sub-par living conditions. Before expanding public housing, we need to take care of people already living in such units by investing in serious rehabilitation of existing publicly owned housing units. We need to protect and improve the state’s existing stock of publicly owned homes, and retrofit them for energy efficiency upgrades and “green” upgrades that shift their electricity dependency onto renewable energy sources.
Universal rent control and tenant protections
California needs to end its vicious cycle of evictions and speculation for profit. This entails:
✔ Allowing local cities to protect their residents from price gouging and displacement by repealing the Costa-Hawkins and Ellis Acts.
✔ Expanding San Francisco’s Right to Counsel to the state level, providing a universal right to legal counsel for anyone facing eviction.
✔ Establishing a rental registry and landlord licensing structure to promote a fair, competitive housing market and expand regulations on predatory bad actors.
HOW WE DO IT:
Allowing local cities to protect their residents from price gouging and displacement by repealing the Costa-Hawkins and the Ellis Act.
On average, an estimated 500,000 Californians face evictions every year so that landlords can raise rents and bring in higher-paying tenants. Rents across the San Francisco Bay Area have grown by over 70% since 2010. There are two laws that uphold this vicious cycle of displacement and inaffordability: the Costa-Hawkins Act and the Ellis Act. The Costa-Hawkins Act has stripped cities throughout California of their ability to properly regulate their housing markets and establish or expand rent control policies that would provide relief to over 5 million renter households all across California. Meanwhile, the Ellis Act has incentivized evictions for profit as tens of thousands have been forced from their homes so landlords could sell to higher bidders. Cities all across California deserve to ensure proper and just protections for working class communities.
In 2018, voters had the chance to repeal Costa-Hawkins by passing Prop 10. My opponent, who vowed in 2016 to support Costa Hawkins reform, did not add his name to the list of Prop 10 supporters. He is the most real-estate backed politician in California with nearly ⅓ of 2015-16 financial contributions coming from the real estate industry. The California real estate lobby poured over $20M to defeat the grassroots statewide push in 2018 to repeal Costa Hawkins. As the only candidate in the race who has signed the #HomesGuarantee pledge, I have vowed to not accept money from the real estate lobby, which will allow me to make good on my promises to renters.
As State Senator, I will seek to allow cities the right of self-determination in establishing or expanding their rent and vacancy control policies by introducing legislation to repeal Costa-Hawkins and drastically reduce the speculation of predatory landlords by introducing legislation to repeal the Ellis Act. I will work in partnership with grassroots organizations up and down the state to create a robust grassroots coalition that can go toe-to-toe with the California Apartment Association (CAA) and the California Association of Realtors (CAR), just as we did against Wall Street lobbyists to pass Public Bank Bill AB 857.
Expanding San Francisco’s Right to Counsel to the state level, providing a universal right to legal counsel for anyone facing eviction.
Amidst a housing crisis in which hundreds of thousands face eviction in any given year, California needs to level the playing field by giving renters across the state a fighting chance to stay in their homes. Nationwide, 90% of landlords have the means to secure legal representation while only 10% of renters are able to do so when facing eviction, leading to approximately 75% of eviction cases ruling in favor of the evictors. It doesn’t have to be this way. In late 2017, New York City implemented Right to Counsel for low-income residents earning 200% of poverty income, nearly doubling the rate at which renters facing eviction had legal representation. After a year of implementation, 84% of renters represented under Right to Counsel won their eviction cases and were able to remain in their homes, and evictions declined by 11% in the first year with 64% of eviction reductions in RTC ZIP codes.
Establishing a rental registry and landlord licensing structure to promote a fair, competitive housing market and expand regulations on predatory behavior.
For too long, there have been few mechanisms through which to collect data and analyze our state’s housing market and regulate the predatory behavior of the largest corporate landlords. Through the implementation of a statewide registry of all rental properties, California would have a valuable tool to study the state’s housing supply to both craft legislation to protect tenants and also develop a more comprehensive plan to build affordable units. Additionally, it’s unacceptable that the state’s largest landlords evade punishment for extraordinarily predatory behavior and continue to act with impunity. For this reason, a rental registry paired with a landlord licensing structure would create a powerful antitrust mechanism through which the State of California would be able to analyze the growth and behavior of the state’s largest corporate landlords. Secondarily, it would serve as a critical tool to protect approximately 5 million renter households by investigating and regulating the harassment of tenants and predatory evictions.
Alleviate displacement and gentrification
✔ Funding for autonomous community planning to empower low-income communities to create land use plans that address the need for affordable green homes and healthy neighborhoods.
✔ Introducing an Anti-Displacement Act to require local planning processes to evaluate projected socioeconomic impacts resulting from housing developments in vulnerable frontline communities, including preference in new housing developments for anyone displaced under the Ellis Act and Owner Move-In’s in that same area.
✔ Legalizing new public housing by repealing Article 34 of the California Constitution.
Little to nothing has changed for low-income communities and communities of color in the realm of affordable housing and homelessness since 2016. Black, Indigenous, Latino, Chinese, Filipino, South East Asian, Pacific Islander communities, and many other people of color and working class people have been left to fend for themselves against intense real estate speculation. As with my opponent’s SB50 bill, they have also been subject to state-level policies heavily influenced by the Real Estate Lobby rather than real people facing real struggles. In addition to rising rental prices, displacement and gentrification leads to irreparable and traumatic amputation of long-standing communal relationships that give purpose and belonging to community members. Legislators fail to weigh this social cost in land use planning.
HOW WE DO IT:
Funding for autonomous community planning to empower low-income communities in gentrifying neighborhoods to create land use plans that address the need for affordable green homes and healthy neighborhoods.
Communities experiencing gentrification and displacement need seats at the table when it comes to making land use policy that affects their communities. As State Senator, I will push for grants so communities are empowered to plan development without displacement in their own communities. They will be able to counter proposals for luxury developments with proposals for developments their communities actually need, like social housing units, parks, community centers, and mixed-use buildings. Democratic community planning requires significant investments of time, and working class people rarely have time to spare, so funding should be secured for multiple years for any given at-risk community.
Introducing an Anti-Displacement Act, to require local planning processes to evaluate projected socioeconomic impacts resulting from housing developments in vulnerable frontline communities, including preference in new housing developments for anyone displaced under the Ellis Act and Owner Move-In’s in that same area.
To complement the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), I will introduce an Anti-Displacement Act, creating a process to evaluate proposals for new housing developments in vulnerable neighborhoods. The act would require state and local agencies that approve developments to take into account any socioeconomic impacts a development may have on rental prices in the surrounding area. This legislation will also include universal preference for anyone displaced from the area under Ellis Act and Owner Move-In evictions to allow people to return to the communities from which they were forced out.
Legalizing new public housing by repealing Article 34 of the California Constitution.
The strongest mechanism to ensure housing as a human right is to build a publicly owned, regulated, and not-for-profit housing supply. For California to be able to effectively intervene in the crisis and stabilize our state, we must repeal a vestige of racial and economic segregation in California: Article 34 of the California State Constitution. Article 34, passed in the era of “white flight,” was designed from the start to prevent poor people of color from entering white neighborhoods. It is central to California’s legacy of racist and classist exclusionary zoning. We can’t build any new public housing until we repeal Article 34 of the California Constitution. Once we repeal Article 34 and bring the existing stock of publicly-owned housing up to standard throughout California, we can build more publicly- or non-profit owned social housing and structure it in a racially and economically equitable manner to avoid the mistakes of the past. As written in the Homes for All platform, “this could include dense, multi-family buildings, distressed single-family homes, cooperative housing, community land trusts, rural homesteads, and mobile home communities, among others.”
✔ Incentivize or require the wealthiest neighborhoods and regions in California to create more housing at all levels of affordability, to redress the historic impact of exclusionary housing policies.
✔ Require balanced development of housing commensurate with job growth that corresponds to wages of local workers.
✔ Prioritize 100% affordable housing development on publicly owned surplus lands.
HOW WE DO IT:
Incentivize or require the wealthiest neighborhoods in California to create more housing at all levels of affordability, to redress the historic impact of exclusionary housing policies.
Decades of exclusionary zoning since the days of redlining and white flight have allowed the wealthiest cities and suburbs to neglect their responsibilities in building housing while reaping the benefits of tremendous economic growth throughout the region. If the Bay Area and California as a whole sincerely hope to stabilize our housing market and build a fair and just California, it will take the herculean effort of ensuring that everyone is contributing their fair share in building affordable housing. In order to do so, we need to design laser-focused zoning plans along with incentives and enforcement mechanisms to motivate wealthy enclaves to reverse decades of exclusionary policies and do their part.
Require balanced development of housing commensurate with job growth that corresponds to wages of local workers.
For years, California’s political establishment has placed the burden of building affordable housing on low-income communities struggling to both house their own communities and welcome a rapidly growing workforce from all over the world. With the implementation of balanced development requirements, the State of California will have the much needed mechanism of indexing commercial zoning to residential in order to guarantee an accessible, affordable, and inclusive California for all.
Prioritize 100% affordable housing development on publicly owned surplus lands.
It’s essential to require that housing on public lands is built to meet social need at no less than 100% affordability because public lands should not be privatized for the profits of real estate developers. Publicly owned land allows the development of affordable units at a significantly lower cost. This provides the most cost effective and easily managed path for California to meet our housing goals at lower income levels.
Parts of my platform drew upon the Data for Progress Homes For All platform by Peter Harrison, Data for Progress Senior Housing Advisor and Henry Kraemer, Data for Progress Housing Fellow Data For Progress available at https://www.dataforprogress.org/homes-for-all.