Opinion: 9 Bills Newsom Can Sign Today to Alleviate Homelessness in California

A homeless man rests between boxes downtown. Photo by Chris Stone
A homeless man rests between boxes downtown. Photo by Chris Stone

As a statewide housing and homeless services provider, PATH — People Assisting the Homeless — knows this crisis impacts everyone in the state. California voters regularly rank homelessness as one of their top concerns. Elected officials across the state maintain that reducing homelessness is a major priority .

Thanks to our state leaders, eviction protections, rental assistance and initiatives such as Project Roomkey and Project Homekey have helped more people come indoors and find housing.

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The sense of urgency to protect our unhoused neighbors should not end now that pandemic measures have. This is why PATH has advocated for more legislative solutions and why, as an organization, we are prioritizing advocacy and long-term policy changes.

PATH has championed nine bills that will aid our efforts to end homelessness in California. These bills center on two crucial components of the homelessness response system — housing and services. The bills that now sit on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk include:

Senate Bill 679 (Kamlager) creates the Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency, a transformative new tool to finance and build badly needed affordable housing all across LA County. Not only will this agency comprehensively address the regional crisis of housing and homelessness, but it will set a model for other regions to holistically and equitably build affordable housing for their residents.

Assembly Bill 2011 (Wicks) streamlines mixed-income housing production in commercial areas, with added benefits for 100% affordable housing. Our state’s housing shortage is the main driver of our homelessness crisis, and this bill would be a tremendous step forward in building more housing where it’s most needed.

Assembly Bill 682 (Bloom) allows for more plentiful and affordable shared housing, a valuable housing option for Californians looking for community and cost savings. PATH and other service providers often place participants in shared housing, and this bill will make those placements faster and easier.

Assembly Bill 1978 (Ward) authorizes the California Housing and Community Development Department to more easily distribute housing money, and help local governments and organizations plan for how to spend it. This is a common-sense technical fix to help the state get the most bang for its buck .

Assembly Bill 2295 (Bloom) streamlines mixed-income housing production for teachers and other government employees on school district land, with the option to open eligibility for everyone once teachers and other government employees have been offered a chance to apply. It’s a simple, low-cost way of building affordable housing for essential workers and everyone in need.

Senate Bill 903 (Hertzberg) requires the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board to collect data on how many people exit prison into unstable housing situations or outright homelessness. We know this problem exists, but the state and providers need data to target programs most effectively.

Assembly Bill 1685 (Bryan) asks local governments to forgive at least $1,500 per year in parking tickets for people experiencing homelessness. Most people living out of their vehicles can’t pay their tickets anyway, and debt is a needless obstacle in the way of housing.

Assembly Bill 1991 (Gabriel) protects people staying in a hotel as part of a shelter program from displacement and discrimination. This will help PATH and other service providers make better use of hotels as short-term options to bring someone in off the sidewalk while experts find more permanent housing.

Assembly Bill 2483 (Maienschein) breaks down silos between health services and housing development, incentivizing more supportive housing for Californians with additional needs. Older adults and people with disabilities sometimes require extra help to lead stable lives, and it will help all Californians if the health and housing agencies collaborate more.

We know what works to end homelessness — access to necessary services and affordable housing. If we are to tackle the homelessness crisis, we need to remain focused on improving systems and building housing people can afford. These bills will help us end homelessness for more individuals , families, and communities. We urge the Governor to sign them.

Zachary Schlagel is director of public policy at PATH, which is one of the largest homeless service providers in California.

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