Housing costs and homelessness remain critical issues in California, with voters consistently ranking them as top concerns.
Now, lawmakers are gearing up to address these pressing challenges by proposing unprecedented amounts of funding through housing bonds. The potential measures, which may appear on the 2024 ballot, could inject billions of dollars into affordable housing programs and initiatives to tackle homelessness.
The $10 Billion Affordable Housing Bond
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks leads a $10 billion bond proposal slated for the March 2024 ballot. The funds would replenish the state’s affordable housing programs, making it the largest housing-related bond since 1980 if approved.
The $4.68 Billion Homelessness Bond
Governor Gavin Newsom is backing a $4.68 billion measure also scheduled for March 2024. The funds would be used to build housing and expand psychiatric and substance abuse treatment for homeless Californians. This bond marks the largest-ever expansion of behavioral health funding in the state.
The Potential $20 Billion Bay Area Housing Finance Authority Bond
In addition to state measures, the newly created Bay Area Housing Finance Authority is considering a regional bond proposal for November 2024. The bond aims to fund affordable housing projects across the nine counties surrounding the San Francisco Bay and could reach up to $20 billion.
Concerns Over Bond Overload
While housing advocates welcome the focus on the state’s affordability crisis, there are concerns about the sheer volume of bond measures vying for space on the 2024 ballots.
The tweet below verifies the news:
California voters regularly name out-of-reach housing costs and homelessness as among the most important issues facing the state.
Now lawmakers are calling their bluff. https://t.co/bN3mzMOO60
— CalMatters (@CalMatters) August 3, 2023
Lawmakers are considering up to ten borrowing measures, totaling around $80 billion in potential debt. The scale of borrowing plans may test the voters’ willingness to support multiple bonds.
Negotiating Ballot Space and Fiscal Capacity
Before reaching the voters, lawmakers must negotiate which measures appear on the ballot. Unlike other initiatives, bond measures require approval by the Legislature and the governor. Considering the state’s fiscal capacity and potential voter fatigue, striking the right balance becomes crucial.
Addressing Complementary Solutions
Some proponents argue that both major housing bonds can complement each other. While one aims to support affordable housing construction, the other focuses on behavioral health treatment for unhoused individuals. Combining these initiatives could provide a comprehensive approach to the housing crisis.
Political Implications and Future Investments
The state’s ability to tackle housing challenges may be influenced by voter perceptions of past spending and fiscal responsibility. Despite concerns, housing advocates believe that the public’s increased interest in affordable housing and homelessness solutions will drive the political will to invest more in these crucial areas.
Long-Term Commitment Needed
Lawmakers and advocates stress that ongoing investments are essential to address the severity of the housing crisis. This could mean introducing more bond measures or allocating additional funds from the state budget in the coming years.
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