Rae Huang is a senior organizer at Housing Now!, a broad and diverse coalition fighting the housing crisis across California and a cosponsor of Senate Bill 555.
Using expertise and support from state agencies, the Stable Affordable Housing Act of 2023 (SB 555) requires California to review how public, nonprofit, and cooperative housing is created and acquired. housing to build the permanent capacity of communities in the state. The new law requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to complete the study by 2027.
The housing and climate crises call on all of us, especially our leaders, to act and address social and racial inequality where life begins—at home. California must address these inequities by developing strategies that provide opportunities for vulnerable climate-challenged populations to access affordable, healthy, safe, and sustainable housing. Transit-oriented development strategies to increase housing and reduce carbon emissions will fail if working-class Californians—who are most dependent on transit—cannot afford to live anywhere near it.
The legislation, which was recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and authored by State Senator Aisha Wahab, was created and led by more than 150 organizations brought together by Housing Now!, a statewide coalition that includes NRDC.
What is social housing?
Social housing encompasses a variety of models rooted in the idea that housing should empower communities, not generate obscene profits for corporate landlords. It works by providing city-owned land or leasing existing buildings to community-led organizations to directly develop and manage housing—exclusively for the benefit of local residents. rent and residents who need stable homes.
Run by public agencies, non-profits, or tenants themselves, social housing is designed to keep rents affordable forever, no more than 30 percent of income, while also giving tenants training and management authority. in their own buildings.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers housingaffordable if a household spends 30 percent or less of its income on housing costs. However, in California, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reports that Californians contribute a greater share of their income to rent than any other state in the country; in fact, as many as 55 percent of California renters are cost-burdened, compared to 50 percent in the United States.
In addition, 2.5 million low-income Californians are home-burdened, meaning they contribute more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Add rising inflation and housing costs to this equation, and you have increased poverty levels that have risen from 11 percent to 15 percent, further exacerbating the current inequity.
Social housing can also provide tenants with a path to home ownership by establishing payments they can afford over a reasonable period of time. This is an option to earn equity in the property that many residents have not had due to disenfranchisement, discrimination, and redlining.
What is the connection between the climate crisis and communities of color?
Extreme heat, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other climate challenges disproportionately affect and devastate communities of color that have been damaged by generations of racist and classist housing, displacement, and policing policies. . Simply put, climate change exacerbates existing inequities.
A recent report on the demographics of eviction filings found that, despite making up only 18.6 percent of all renters, Black Americans accounted for 51.1 percent of those affected. of eviction filings and 43.4 percent of actual evictions. Nearly one in five Black Americans who live in a rental home are threatened with eviction each year, while 1 in 10 are evicted.
Additionally, a 2020 study by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office found that communities affected by a discriminatory practice known as redlining are more likely to “experience warmer temperatures and more flood risk than in other areas. Also, these areas tend to have fewer parks and trees and more paved areas.”
Redlining is a historically exclusive, race-based tactic perpetuated by the real estate industry—and supported by the government—to keep Black families out of the real estate market through racial covenants, lowering the value of land owned by Black families, and managed by Black families. to move to color-coded, segregated, low-valued areas; hence, the term redlining (see map above). As a result, the redlined neighborhoods where black families have historically been underfunded, under-resourced, and neglected.
For these historically under-resourced neighborhoods and communities, the climate crisis deepens the existing inequity of the housing crisis, calling for an urgent need to develop sustainable social housing solutions. on the climate for the communities most at risk.
Housing is a human right
NRDC is proud to join the dynamic movement of tenant unions, labor organizations, and health, housing, and environmental justice advocates coming together to urge state legislators and the governor to prioritize housing as a basic human right by passing SB 555.
At a time when housing affordability in California is at an all-time low, social housing as a solution is much needed—and most urgent for communities at risk of homelessness, who struggle to keep a roof over their heads. heads per day.
California is once again leading the way and addressing many intersecting crises in the most urgent of times. The Stable Affordable Housing Act will lead us to a future that is sustainable and affordable, and a more just society. This is a first step toward developing much-needed strategies that will provide a road map for all Californians.