SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) – More than 100 housing bills have been introduced so far in the California legislature this year, an about face from 2020 where housing took a backseat to the pandemic.
One of the largest statewide initiatives comes from a cross sector of organizations. Called Roadmap HOME 2030, it's a 10-year housing plan that's elevating marginalized voices of people who have experienced housing insecurity firsthand, like Willie Stevens.
"To have this many people homeless, it just hurts my soul," Stevens told KPIX 5.
Fortunately for Stevens, he just narrowly escaped homelessness. After 25 years working as a property manager, he retired only to find out his Social Security check each month would be $870, when his rent was $850.
After staying with friends for months, he finally got off a waitlist and moved into Allen Temple Arms, affordable housing for seniors in Oakland. Stevens said he was just days away from sleeping on the street.
"I'm 72 years old. I know I couldn't survive probably a couple of nights laying on the ground," Stevens said.
This is largely why Stevens is an affordable housing advocate for the Resident's United Network or RUN. The group works to make sure policy makers consider the voices of people who have actually experienced housing insecurity.
"Ensuring that the residents' voices are heard, they're validated, they're honored," Zella Knight said.
Knight is Steven's counterpart in Los Angeles, for her, calling out systemic racism is core to this year's legislative agenda.
"I think the unfortunate thing is the fact that it took crisis and death for everybody to be on the same page," Knight said.
"The pandemic, then natural disasters and the racial injustice all created the perfect storm from which real change can be born," Lisa Hershey, the Executive Director of Housing California said.
Hershey is partnering with Matt Schwartz, President of The California Housing Partnership to put in place California's first 10-year housing plan.
Roadmap HOME 2030 is a 12-step program with 60 statewide policy proposals. Among the proposals: creating 1.2 million new affordable homes in 10 years, creating a $10 billion statewide housing bond, expanding Project Homekey, utilizing vacant commercial spaces, ending exclusionary zoning, and creating a permanent fund for homelessness solutions through corporate tax increases.
"We need that commitment to a long-term plan with clear goals and metrics so we can hold ourselves accountable every year. That's what we haven't had," Schwartz said.
"There is some optimism that 2021 will bring back a lot of the legislation that stalled in 2020," David Garcia, Policy Director and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley said.
Garcia's team tracked the disappointment of the lack of action on housing in 2020 and is now closely following more than 100 housing bills which highlight a shift from production to utilizing vacant space.
"Some of the research we have done shows there's a tremendous amount of land dedicated to commercial uses, retail and office," Garcia said. "Some cities are looking at these as opportunities to site more housing."
The heart of Roadmap HOME 2030 is that 10-year vision, which prevents leadership changes from derailing long-term priorities.
"We can no longer hesitate in moving the needle forward, again, we've got too many lives at stake and we've lost too many lives," Knight said.
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