Op-Ed: California urgently needs affordable housing. Let’s take time to craft the right solution

May 22, 2019

Throughout my career, I have been unwavering in my support for increasing California’s supply of affordable housing.

In the state Legislature, I created a historic ongoing funding source for affordable housing, made sure affordable housing was included in cap-and-trade funds and provided funding for permanent supportive housing as well as other programs and funding to combat homelessness.

I am supportive of the concepts advanced by Senate Bill 50, which would add housing supply by increasing density and creating more transit-oriented housing to address both the housing shortage and climate change.

I appreciate the passionate feelings that are being expressed by the supporters of SB 50. I have had bills delayed – and defeated. I know it isn’t easy. In fact, it took me seven years to get my legislation passed to create an ongoing source of funding for affordable housing.

There are real issues with SB 50, however, including concerns from the countless communities I have heard from that one size does not fit all. Many communities also feel uncertain about exactly where and how the proposal would impact them.

I believe those issues can be overcome. State Sen. Scott Wiener is a friend, a colleague and a champion of affordable housing. I greatly respect his opinion and I am committed to working with him on this issue. I am confident he will make use of the opportunity that has been presented to bring the sides together.

As part of that effort, opponents, particularly local governments, need to commit to delivering on zoning changes to allow for more housing and increased density.

I specifically made planning money a priority in Senate Bill 2 – the Building Homes and Jobs Act – so local governments could update their general and specific plans, or rezone to provide for more housing.

This year’s budget also looks to provide an additional $250 million to cities and regions for this same purpose. I hope they will use that money wisely, perhaps by analyzing and implementing their own local transit-oriented development plans, which are sorely needed statewide.

We will get something done because we must. The best way to get there is by working together with Gov. Newsom and others to address the concerns about SB 50.

The realities of our housing crisis and the calamities threatened by climate change are critically important. Let’s use the extra time given to SB 50 to find common ground and produce workable solutions that can be voted on next year.

Toni G. Atkins is the President pro Tempore of the California State Senate.