To the Editor:
Affordable Housing Week is a chance to highlight the significant shortage of affordable housing in the Bay Area as well as celebrate the significant contributions of affordable housing to the lives of those who depend on it. Throughout my years as an assemblywoman, I have seen this area's affordable housing crisis worsen. The number of housing units available to families with low to moderate incomes is negligible compared to the rising number of those in need.
We must make significant progress to reduce the disparity between those who can and cannot afford housing. Our state is second to last in the nation in homeownership rates. A minimum-wage earner must work over 100 hours a week to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the Bay Area. California has lost over 20,000 affordable housing units over the past five years, and there are over 360,000 homeless in California with the most rapidly growing segments of this population being seniors and families with children.
However, California has made significant strides in providing more affordable housing. We are exploring new and creative incentives to encourage developers to construct affordable housing, government is putting more funds towards constructing affordable housing and we are seeing better public policy around creating more affordable housing for California's families. I have supported the efforts of my colleagues in the State Legislature to ease the growing disparity between those who have housing and those who do not. Most notably, Senator John Burton's (D-San Francisco) $2.1 billion housing bond, if passed this November, will go far in addressing the affordable housing needs of this state. I fought to include close to $190 million for supportive housing, housing with built-in medical and social services assistance, and $15 million to fund housing for low-income UC and CSU students and staff. Affordable housing trusts, which already exist in a number of cities and counties throughout the state, are another example of what we can do to spur the construction of affordable housing units. These trusts are pools of money from various sources set aside for affordable housing. Affordable housing trusts must continue to be developed and supported.
On May 29th, the State Assembly adopted my ACR 209, a resolution calling upon Californians to participate in Affordable Housing Week activities and work towards diminishing our state's housing gap. Affordable Housing Week is being celebrated between June 1st and June 9th and will be marked by grand openings of affordable housing developments, forums on increasing affordable housing, and rallies throughout the state. This is a chance for people to come together in observance of the progress made around affordable housing as well connect more families with affordable housing, particularly the most vulnerable members of our community - low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities.
As California is faced with one of the most ominous budgets in recent history, it is incumbent upon all of us to come up with solutions with fewer resources, yet with greater resolve than ever before. Your participation in Affordable Housing Week is critical. It is an opportunity for all of us to be advocates, it is a call to leadership, a challenge that must be met on behalf of those who struggle daily to meet a need which most of us take for granted.
Your efforts will be felt by thousands of families in your community. Your work can create rooftops!