Package of legislation aims reduce homelessness and ensure funds are used efficiently
(Sacramento, CA) – A package of bills proposed by California lawmakers to tackle California’s homelessness crisis passed the California State Assembly this week. The proposals aim to establish aggressive new strategies, ensure accountability, and increase funding to address homelessness.
On any given night, more than 150,000 Californians experience homelessness, and the state has the highest rate of unsheltered homeless individuals in the nation. Even as people are housed, more are falling into homelessness. In Los Angeles County, for every 133 people housed, 150 fall into homelessness. In Oakland, for one person housed, two more become homeless. In San Francisco, for every one person housed, three become homeless.
As COVID-19 continues to impact communities around the state, the need to comprehensively address homelessness has only become more urgent. With more than a quarter of California’s workforce unemployed, individuals who were already facing precarious financial situations have become more susceptible to falling into homelessness. With troubling outbreaks in unhoused communities across the state, COVID-19 has been especially dangerous for those experiencing homelessness.
The bills that moved forward this week seek to address homeless on a number of fronts, ranging from requiring accountability to implementing bold new strategies to speeding up construction of shelters.
Signifying a strong commitment to ongoing funding to address homelessness, Assembly Bill 3300 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago would appropriate $2 billion annually to prevent and reduce homelessness. AB 3300 would allocate funding to big cities, counties, continuums of care, and affordable housing developers to provide supportive housing, rental and housing assistance, and wrap-around services.
"We are juggling a pandemic, an economic depression, and a homelessness crisis that will inevitably be exacerbated by the conditions brought on by COVID-19,” said Assemblymember Santiago, the Chair of the Select Committee on Los Angeles County Homelessness. “AB 3300 is the double-down mechanism we need to ignite bold change. Investing $2 billion to fight homelessness is long overdue and we simply can’t afford to wait any more."
Assembly Bill 3269 by Assemblymembers David Chiu and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) would require the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council to develop benchmark goals for each local agency to reduce homelessness in their jurisdictions. Based on those goals, the bill requires the state and local governments to develop an actionable plan to reduce homelessness by 90 percent by December 31, 2028. Additionally, AB 3269 would establish a Homelessness Inspector General that can bring a public right of action against the state or local government for failing to submit a plan or not follow a plan.
“California’s homelessness crisis requires bold action,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “By requiring all cities to implement real plans to reduce homelessness by 90 percent, we are taking the bold action necessary to meaningfully reduce homelessness.”
In order to ensure California’s many efforts to reduce homelessness are streamlined and coordinated, Assembly Bill 1845 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) would create a Secretary on Housing Insecurity and Homelessness. This bill would establish a single entity able to coordinate the state’s response to addressing homelessness.
“Decades of statewide failed structural policies and regulations have bottlenecked our attempts to effectively respond to the growing housing and homelessness crisis. AB 1845 further highlights these structural issues that have been ignored for far too long,” said Assemblywoman Rivas. “By creating an Office to End Homelessness and a Secretary on Housing Insecurity and Homelessness, which will be in charge of overseeing all homelessness programs, we are now holding the State accountable to their promise to end homelessness.”
Assembly Bill 2377 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would address a troubling trend of recent Adult Residential Facility (ARF) closures and help support vulnerable residents at risk of homelessness. The bill would give local governments more tools to mitigate the impact of ARF closures and require ARF owners to give residents more time and help with relocation before a facility is allowed to close.
“When an Adult Residential Facility closes, it leaves some of the most vulnerable people in our community at risk of homelessness,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “Providing more time and relocation assistance can go a long way towards ensuring residents have a place to go and are cared for.”
Assembly Bill 2405 by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) would establish a right to housing for California children and families by 2026. The bill would create a statewide strategy on families and children experiencing housing insecurity with a focus on prevention, emergency accommodations, and permanent, supportive housing.
“California has a moral obligation to ensure its residents can achieve stable and affordable housing,” said Assemblymember Burke. “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that now more than ever, so many individuals and families are only one paycheck away from becoming homeless. As a state, we should stand on the right side of history and declare that housing is a fundamental right.”
While many localities have tried mightily to increase their emergency shelter capacity, cities still run into roadblocks like lengthy approval processes and slow construction. Assembly Bill 2553 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) would address this by giving localities flexibility to expedite the construction of shelters. AB 2553 expands and builds off of the successful emergency shelter pilot program passed in 2017.
“The key to getting emergency shelters up and running quickly is flexibility,” said Assemblymember Ting. “Cities and counties cannot afford delays when homeless individuals and families need a roof over their heads now. With my bill, local leaders will be able to overcome hurdles that can slow construction when time is of the essence.”
Assembly Bill 2746 by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) creates accountability and efficiency by establishing reporting requirements on state funded programs that address homelessness. The bill will require ongoing reporting requirements on the amount a program spends, the amount of people served, the types of services provided, and exits into permanent, supportive housing.
“Homelessness is an urgent crisis that demands our full attention and significant public resources,” said Assemblymember Gabriel. “At the same time, we must demand more accountability and transparency from those who receive public funding, so that we can focus our efforts on the most impactful responses. The current situation and lack of progress in many cities and counties is heartbreaking and unacceptable. California residents, taxpayers, businesses, and those suffering on our streets deserve better.”
AB 3300 still awaits passage from the Assembly Floor. All other bills in the package will now move on to the Senate for policy committee hearings in July.
Assembly Member Miguel Santiago is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance and the Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Los Angeles County Homelessness. He also sits on the Assembly Committees on Public Safety, Health, Higher Education and Utilities and Energy. He represents the 53rd District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Vernon.