July 20, 2021
Maggie Stanko, Analyst
Team RSG was eager to attend Housing California’s virtual 2021 Conference from June 22–24 alongside the state’s top leaders, legislators, advocates, and visionaries in the housing arena. We attended keynotes, plenaries, breakout sessions, and deep-dive learning labs to educate ourselves on laying the groundwork for structural reform and discussing clear, long-term solutions moving forward. Housing is the key determinant to an individual’s success and health and is the foundation for long-term equity, resilience, sustainability, and equality in our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the housing and homelessness crisis even further, leaving unprecedented levels of Californians on the street, renters unable to pay rent, and homeowners unable to pay their mortgage. These issues hit BIPOC communities the hardest, making reparative justice the centerpiece of this year’s conference. Heather McGhee, author of “The Sum of Us,” said it best during the opening keynote: “When we talk about affordable housing, we were always talking about race.”
Two additional key themes of the conference were addressing homelessness and the lack of supply and equity in housing through innovative policy solutions, and Governor Newsom’s historic budget for 2021-22, which is heavily focused on homelessness and housing.
Here is a recap of the main takeaways from the event:
No real change can come to fruition without acknowledging the harmful housing policies that have targeted BIPOC communities. There is a history of redlining, restricted covenants, exclusionary zoning, predatory lending, and many other racist practices embedded into our laws and policies. Panelists pleaded that we must change the foundation and work towards dismantling systemic racism before tackling anything else. People who have been most affected by these policies should be put in leadership positions to develop new solutions, on top of implementing land use policy changes and building wealth and income equity.
Addressing homelessness and the lack of supply and equity in housing through innovative policy solutions.
The Roadmap Home 2030, founded by Housing California and the California Housing Partnership, in partnership with the California Budget & Policy Center, outlines 57 policy solutions to help address racial disparities in housing, increase the housing supply across the state, and provide solutions to end homelessness. Committees ranging from academics, policymakers, and experts in housing are the driving force of this coalition. The intended goal is to shift the mindset away from zero-sum thinking and move the needle towards long-term solutions. Another policy discussed was Project Homekey, an effort by the state to buy motels and other underutilized properties to house homeless individuals. So far, 94 sites were acquired, and 6,000 rooms were purchased. Governor Newsom is aiming to make homelessness funds a General Fund line item rather than be one-time allocations, which is what the state has historically done.
Governor Newsom’s Budget for 2021-22—the year of housing and homelessness.
As stated above, Governor Newsom aims to secure an ongoing source funding to address homelessness, namely for Project HomeKey, rental assistance programs, housing stability services, and monies for program operations. No budget has ever aimed to allocate this much money to homelessness and housing programs. Governor Newsom also has a priority of ending family homelessness within five years and giving more money to local jurisdictions to address homelessness in ways that are unique to their community.