Fighting the Housing Crisis
By Assemblymember Phil Ting
When disaster strikes, we’ll need our firefighters, paramedics and other first responders on the scene as soon as possible, because minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, many of our first responders cannot afford to live in San Francisco; some live two or more hours away.
Just as dire is the fact that the people who teach our city’s children cannot afford to live here. The support that teachers provide to our children is invaluable and that connection only grows stronger when students see teachers as part of their community. Recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Francis Scott Key Elementary School in my district; he heard the stories of people like Yolanda Fong, who teaches second grade there. She lives with her parents so she can save money for a down payment. Unfortunately, not everyone has that option, forcing already underpaid teachers to commute long distances to serve our students.
The housing crisis is one of the preeminent issues facing our state. While it is acute in San Francisco and the Bay Area, other parts of the state are feeling the crunch as well. The housing crisis is interlinked with another crisis facing our state: homelessness. It is estimated that 70 percent of our city’s homeless population was previously housed here, forced out by rising rents.
That is why we are taking a multi-pronged approach to these two crises. As chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I am proud to have helped spearhead a total of $2.75 billion towards solutions, the largest investment in recent history. Of this amount, $1.75 billion is going into housing; $750 million to help local governments increase and accelerate housing production; $500 million to expand our housing tax credit and to attract more private investment in affordable housing projects; and another $500 million to encourage developers to include more low- and moderate-income housing in their projects.
To address homelessness, we included $650 million – up from $500 million in last year’s budget – in matching funds for local homelessness programs. San Francisco is estimated to receive $40 million, up from $27 million last year. This will go towards building more emergency shelters and navigation centers and providing more services. Of these funds, eight percent must be set aside for homeless youth. It is unacceptable that on any given night, 1,000 youth in San Francisco, and a total of 12,000 statewide, are unaccompanied and on the street.
Additionally, we are working to help keep families from becoming homeless in the first place. This year’s budget invests $20 million for grants to non-profit legal organizations that assist with landlord-tenant disputes, preventing evictions. And legislation that I authored last year, Assembly Bill 2219, has gone into effect, allowing for third parties to help cover rent for people who are at risk of losing their housing.
While it is unfortunate that these crises have reached the point they have, your representatives in the legislature and the governor are committed to solutions that will reverse these trends. By building more housing for our middle class, as well as getting people off the street and into supportive housing, we can make the California Dream accessible to all once again.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.