As California contends with dramatic increases in its homeless population, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders agreed to send hundreds of millions of dollars to local governments to help address the problem while also cajoling cities and counties to allow more housing development.
The deal, which the Legislature had not voted on as of our publication deadline, gives Los Angeles and a dozen of California’s other largest cities $275 million in state grants to help address homelessness. Counties would receive an additional $175 million, and $190 million more would go to regional agencies known as “continuums of care,” which coordinate services for the homeless across the state.
Newsom made addressing the state’s rising housing costs one of his top priorities on the campaign trail, and he has singled out resistance to residential development from cities and counties as one of the key reasons the state doesn’t have enough homes available.
Getting Local Governments Involved
The agreement, announced June 27, takes initial steps in dealing with that concern by giving more state housing dollars to local governments that make it easier for developers to build. The proposal also adds harsh penalties, including fines of $100,000 or more a month, in the most extreme cases of cities and counties refusing for years to follow state requirements to accommodate new growth.
“Cities can’t do it alone,” Newsom said in a budget signing video on Facebook. “As a former mayor, I was always looking for state support, looking for more federal support. But this state is now stepping up and recognizing that we need to be part of that solution.”
“The high cost of housing is chief among the affordability and quality-of-life challenges families face,” Newsom said in a joint statement announcing the agreement with Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an interview that the city will receive about $130 million, an increase of more than 50% over its funding from a similar state allocation last year. Los Angeles County also will get its own cut, as will the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the cities of Long Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana and Riverside.
Prop 2 Funds Kicking In
In addition to the money for local governments, the region just received funding from Proposition 2, the $2-billion statewide homeless housing bond that voters approved in November, and will get money from social services and other programs aimed at preventing homelessness.
The legislation also includes a provision allowing some homeless shelters proposed by cities to avoid restrictions under the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires the disclosure of a project’s environmental effects. Neighborhood groups in Venice and San Francisco have recently used the law to try to stop shelters from being built in their communities.
Like other areas of the state, Los Angeles saw a double-digit percentage increase in its homeless population, according to a survey released this month. Countywide, the homeless population increased 12% to just under 59,000 residents.
When unveiling his initial budget plan in January, the governor proposed withholding gas tax revenue from cities that don’t support enough new housing to keep pace with population increases. After fierce pushback from lawmakers, including within his own Democratic Party, Newsom agreed to postpone implementation of the plan for four years, into a potential second term.
Just 42 of California’s 539 cities and counties are out of compliance with the housing supply law, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, including rural areas with small populations.
In January, Newsom authorized a lawsuit against Huntington Beach, a case that’s still pending and the only such suit that’s so far been filed. For Huntington Beach to face any of the penalties outlined in the legislation announced, the Orange County city would have to lose its case and then fail to zone for sufficient housing over the next year.