Where you live can make a difference!
By Vincent Casalaina, Northern Vice Chair
Susan Grigsby writing for KOS media reports there are neighborhoods in Baltimore in which the life expectancy is 19 years less than other neighborhoods in the same city. Residents of the Downtown/Seaton Hill neighborhood have a life expectancy lower than 229 other nations, exceeded only by Yemen. According to the Washington Post, 15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have a lower life expectancy than North Korea.
In Cleveland, police killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy at a park, barely bringing their car to a halt before jumping out to open fire. What was his crime? He was playing with a toy gun. I wonder how many of you who read this remember playing with toy guns in a park near your house. Is there a difference in the way people saw your actions that had to do with where you lived? Would Tamir Rice be alive today if he’d lived in your neighborhood?
Around the country there’s a new awareness that the place you live does matter when it comes to how you are treated. Most people around California are paying more than they can afford and still living in marginal hosing. What we are seeing is a push to create more permanently affordable housing, not just for the truly poor whose household makes less than 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) but also for those in the workforce who make up to 130% of AMI.
Who are these people? They are first responders, teachers, EMTs, office and administrative support staff as well as retail sales people and home health aides; hardworking people who deserve a decent place to live in our communities.
As an example, take a couple, one is a bank teller and one is a pre-school teacher, their combined income is roughly 98% of the AMI based information compiled by the Marin Workforce Land Trust. In many areas of California, it takes well above that to rent a two bedroom apartment just big enough to start raising a family. In Marin, Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland it takes over 80% of AMI to rent even a 1 bedroom apartment.
That leaves only the most run down sections of our cities where hard working people can find a place to live. Place does matter and we can change that.
We need the California Democratic Party, and especially our Assembly members and Senators, who can actually move housing legislation, to advocate for affordable housing policies. Policies that will alter where and in what kind of housing those people whose household earns less than $150,000 per year must live. California is experiencing a housing affordability crisis that threatens to undermine the economic viability and diversity of many California communities.
Tony Thurmond (AD-15) is concerned that as rent prices soar in California cities, we are losing the diversity of our communities, as low income families, people of color, and working people are being pushed out of urban and rural communities alike. In the Bay Area, where rents exceed $4000 per month for a one bedroom apartment, many of our most economically fragile families are pushed farther away from the communities where they work.
As the crisis worsens, local governments struggle to address the problem without the funding necessary to build new housing primarily due to lack of state and federal funding but also due to current California laws and court cases that restrict the policies local jurisdictions can implement. The problem is further exacerbated as the number of homeless individuals in our state increases.
The housing crisis creates other problems in addition to the lack of affordable physical shelter for Californians. Consider the inability of a Bay Area teacher making $50,000 annually to buy or rent when homes sell for more than $800,000 and rents in cities like Oakland are now the fourth highest of any U.S. city. The lack of affordable housing pushes teachers out of our communities. This threatens teacher retention, which, in turn, hinders our ability to close the achievement gap and serve the students with the greatest educational needs.
The California Democratic Party needs to strongly support policies that make housing possible for all residents. Assembly member Thurmond has made affordable housing his top legislative priority this year and will be presenting new legislation to increase funding for and loosen restrictions on constructing affordable housing.
He hopes you will help him by advocating for funding to support low income, workforce, farm worker, and senior housing, and to build programs to meet the housing needs of homeless Californians. Make it a point to speak with your own legislators and especially with the Governor who vetoed several bills this past year that would have helped develop new affordable housing. These were bills with wide support both in progressive circles as well as being supported by the California Association of Realtors.
There are examples of permanently affordable workforce housing projects already in the works around the state.
Dennis Romero writing for the LA Weekly reports it takes someone making nearly $100,000 a year in household income just to afford a median rental home in L.A. Furthermore, a UCLA study concluded that the gap between local incomes and rents have made Los Angeles the least affordable rental market in America.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is one of the few bureaucracies in town that is doing anything significant about the problem. The LAUSD notes that annual median rents in California have increased 21 percent since 2000, while average renters have experienced a real-world loss in income of eight percent. Increasingly, the high rents place more people into poverty.
Its 66-unit, four-story Selma Community Workforce Housing Project is under construction in Hollywood and is scheduled to open in fall of 2016, the district says. It’s intended for L.A. Unified employees who fall into a designated economic category. The complex is part of the District’s ambitious effort to attract and retain staff who want to live near work but can’t afford to pay for housing costs.
In Northern California, the League of California Cities profiled Livermore’s affordable housing achievements. This city of 83,000 has more people with PhDs than any other U.S. city but that doesn’t mean everyone who lives there can afford the median home prices or the market’s rental rates. There are a wide range of programs designed to help people buy affordable homes and rent affordable apartments.
The city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance is one of its most important tools. Developers are required to set aside 15 percent of the units it builds as affordable or the developer can pay the city the value in lieu of building the units. The units must be comparable to the rest being built. Just like the LAUSD’s project, Livermore’s policies give preference to its teachers, police officers and service workers. “The idea is that people who work in Livermore should live here,” says Eric Uranga, Livermore’s assistant community development director.
Between 2002 and 2010, 105 inclusionary units were built for Livermore’s moderate-, low-, or very-low income residents. When one of these units goes up for sale, the city requires that it be sold to another person who meets the qualification of Livermore’s inclusionary housing policy. The city gives also priority to people renting one of Livermore’s subsidized housing units who want to purchase one of these homes.
Livermore won’t be able to continue its long-standing emphasis on housing without new partnerships between cities and the state. The city manager hopes that the state comes up with new ways to help cities like his build workforce and low and very-low income housing.
We can change the environment in which people live by producing new affordable housing developments throughout our cities. It’s not the solution to preventing more shootings of poor people of color like Tamir Rice but less racially and economically segregated communities will make it more difficult to sweep them under the rug.
Another View – Focus on the Homeless and the Truly Poor
By Susie Shannon, Southern Region Vice Chair
There are over 113,000 people who are homeless in California. Most of them, in fact about 91%. are not part of the full time workforce. While I am not stating that workforce housing is not needed, I am stating that people who are homeless and ill and represent 30% of the area median income (those “living” on public assistance, have part time jobs at minimum wage with sporadic hours, etc.) need to be helped first and foremost. I am not about to tell my homeless client who is living in a car with full blown aids living on $830 from SSI that the government should first house a bank worker or (with your high number) someone making up to $150,000 a year.
If we can’t get people to act out of compassion for folks who are homeless, we can make the economic argument. For every person we house who is currently homeless, we save $25,000 a year. The State of Utah has ended chronic homelessness by putting people in housing first. They saved $8,000 – $10,000 per person and used the savings to work on the next tier of vulnerable populations. Check out Lloyd Pendleton on the Daily Show for how they did it – www.povertymattersusa.org
Legislation is moving in California that would do this very thing, and I hope that the Caucus will get behind it.
I support rent control and rent assistance programs because I agree that rent is too high in our cities.
The Progressive Caucuses first issues oriented committee
The Democratic Renewal Committee of the Progressive Caucus has been approved and is working hard on getting Prop. 49 onto the November 2016 Ballot. Here’s what the Committee intends to do.
When we look at all the causes we feel are progressive we find a recurring theme. The influence of billionaires and corporations stand in our way. Until big money is out of politics our democracy is threatened, corrupted and undermined. To get big money is out of politics we need a mechanism within the California Democratic Party (CDP) whose mission is Democratic Renewal.
The Democratic Renewal Committee will work toward changing the US Constitution as follows:
- Only humans have constitutional rights.
- Campaign spending may be limited and regulated by legislation.
- Public financing of political campaigns
- Protecting the integrity of the voting process
Even though the Secretary of State did not petition the California Supreme Court to remedy the damage caused by its removal of Prop. 49 in 2014, the legislature did step in and request the Court rule on adding Prop. 49 to the November ballot.
If you’d like to be a part of this committee and help them move the party on this issue or their other issues, contact Ellis Goldberg (firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-451-4303c). He’ll explain how the Sec. of State has the power to put Prop. 49 on the ballot and what you can do to help.