Senator Sydney K. Kamlager (District 30) is pleased to announce SB 679 has passed the California Senate, marking a key step in establishing a single independent countywide affordable housing solutions agency for LA County.
“LA County’s burgeoning housing affordability crisis calls for a collaborative, equity-centered response,”said Senator Kamlager. “This is a moment for bold, innovative solutions to our housing crisis, and that’s why I’m so pleased that my colleagues have supported this bill to create a new, independent and countywide approach that protects renters and creates housing that people can afford.”
With a core focus on racial equity, SB 679: LA County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency would create an independent countywide housing solutions agency with the ability to raise its own public and private revenue to fund systemic solutions to Los Angeles’s current affordable housing crisis. Those solutions include providing rental assistance, funding tenant protection programs, acquiring existing housing to ensure long term affordability, and financing new affordable housing–including doing so outside of the existing “tax credit” financing structure.
In L.A. County, 67% of Black and 70% of Latino/a residents spend more than 30% of their income on rent. Of the 3,007 counties in the US, LA County ranks last in housing affordability, overcrowding, and unsheltered homelessness. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has instructed the governments within L.A. County to plan for 341,000 homes by 2029 that are affordable to households with low incomes. However, the County is currently on pace to build only 25,000 units, or 7% of what’s needed, making clear the need for a regional solution with significant resources and innovative tactics with racial equity at the center of its strategies
SB 679 has the enthusiastic support of Our Future Los Angeles (OFLA) coalition, a first-of-its-kind coalition formed to tackle the region’s long term affordable housing and homelessness crisis through the lenses of racial and economic justice, and in many ways continuing the movement that took 2020’s care-not-jail Measure J to the ballot. Its membership includes housing advocates like Neighborhood Housing Services, unions such as SEIU 2015, philanthropic partners like United Way of Greater Los Angeles, powerful justice advocates like LA CAN, and key environmental advocacy organizations like Climate Resolve.
“SB 679 represents the boldness that we need to address our countywide affordable housing crisis,” said Rex Richardson, Vice Mayor, City of Long Beach. “This proposed independent agency would bring the resources and focus that we need to achieve our ambitious affordable housing goals for L.A. County while making sure cities have a strong voice at the table.”
The new county agency could distribute affordable housing funds in a more equitable fashion across the county and fight trends forcing working people to commute hours from affordable neighborhoods to workplaces.
“The communities of the second district are enduring the consequences every day of our broken housing system. We need more tools, more creative strategies, and more resources to help prevent displacement, homelessness, and severe overcrowding,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell. “I am excited to work with Senator Kamlager to help push forward this exciting vision for change.”
This proposal comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a disproportionately devastating effect on Black and Brown communities, due in significant part to substandard housing conditions.
“Our families are being displaced by the thousands,” said Edgar Campos, Executive Director of T.R.U.S.T. South LA, a community land trust and housing advocacy organization that is part of the OFLA coalition. “And those who aren’t leaving are dying—essential workers got exposed to COVID at work, then returned home to overcrowded housing, where they exposed their family members. That’s why we need SB 679 — securing good housing for every family is literally a life-and-death issue. And right now, we’re not getting it done.”
Indeed, the deep legacy of racism plays a large role in the current LA County housing crisis.
“LA County’s deeply fractured landscape of local governance, with 88 different cities, stems directly from the region’s 20th-century history of redlining and exclusion,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, a member of the OFLA coalition. “To overcome that, we need a county-wide solution that will help every community by bridging the divisions and the different rules of different cities, because we truly are one community.”
The county-wide housing agency that SB 679 creates would be funded by a citizen ballot initiative that will likely appear on the November 2022 ballot and whose contents are still under discussion. Though unique, the concept is not unprecedented. Many large Asian countries have independent housing development authorities. New York City has had a Housing Development Corporation for decades. More recently, the Bay Area has created its own model with the combination of the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (AB1487) and the land use authorities granted to the Bay Area Rapid Transit District by AB2923. LA County requires a different structure to fit its own distinctive geographic and political landscape, but these models are good starting points.
“The reason we’re here is that the previous models we’ve tried in Los Angeles haven’t worked,” said Joe Delgado, the Los Angeles Director of ACCE Institute, a justice advocacy organization that is a member of the OFLA coalition. “Our housing crisis hurts everyone, from people experiencing homelessness to the working poor to the middle class. We need new strategies that keep housing in the hands of the people, and that’s what SB 679 creates.”