Valley Voices

When will the Legislature take housing crisis seriously?

A lot of new construction is going on here, such as this development called the Lodge District by Riverstone in Madera County. Legislators took steps on the state’s affordable housing shortage but advocates say it’s not nearly enough.
A lot of new construction is going on here, such as this development called the Lodge District by Riverstone in Madera County. Legislators took steps on the state’s affordable housing shortage but advocates say it’s not nearly enough.

The gap between wages and the cost of housing continues to grow across California. A worker making minimum wage needs to log more than 90 hours a week to rent a modest one-bedroom home.

Even in areas typically more affordable for low-wage workers, such as the Central San Joaquin Valley, families struggle to find a place to live and the fear of homelessness is palpable. Our affordable housing partners are receiving hundreds of calls from families desperate to avoid doubling up with family members or living in their cars.

We simply can’t keep up with the demand for affordable housing as families, seniors and individuals are pushed out of areas because of rising rents.

Yet in less than a month, the Legislature will head out on summer vacation – a luxury not afforded to thousands of seniors, veterans and others struggling to keep up with rising rents.

When will legislators take the housing and homelessness crises seriously and intervene? Haven’t we reached our breaking point of seeing images of more homeless encampments going up and mothers and children living in their cars?

For months, elected officials repeatedly said addressing the affordable housing crisis is a top priority this year. The state Senate has advanced legislation to streamline permits on some housing and for $3 billion bond issue, though it would require Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval to go before voters in 2018.

Yet legislators have failed to act on the most meaningful pieces of a comprehensive housing package that includes sustainable funding to build more affordable homes. It also meets the criteria outlined by Brown, who said housing policies need to lower per-unit costs, reward production through incentives and strengthen accountability without affecting the state’s general fund budget.

Reforms and streamlining alone won’t solve the problem. Without permanent funding, the rest of the housing package is set up for failure.

Legislators clearly are willing to take bold action on some of California’s critical needs, passing and funding a transportation package with the support of the governor. What is a more basic need than a home?

For more than 30 years, Visionary Home Builders of California has been working across the Central San Joaquin Valley to help make affordable housing available and provide educational and training opportunities.

Our earliest housing project started in collaboration with a small group of farmworkers in 1983 in Stockton. Together, we made possible what seems to have been forgotten in today’s crisis – that having a stable home is good not just for individuals and families but also for the whole community and local economy.

Pushing off the housing crisis for another day has led to the catastrophe before us. Californians on the brink of homelessness don’t have the luxury to push off the rent. Neither can the Legislature wait to take action.

Carol Ornelas is CEO of Visionary Home Builders of California and can be contacted at cjornelas@visionaryhomebuilders.org. Ray Pearl is executive director of the California Housing Consortium and can be contacted at rpearl@calhsng.org.

  Comments