2019 – A Happier New Year for Affordable Housing in California

Matt Schwartz, President & CEO

As we head into the first full week of 2019, I wanted to share five reasons why I am feeling optimistic about the state of affordable housing in California:

1.  California’s own Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives last week. While she can’t take us back in time to pass the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 bill or change the Senate or White House leadership that have resulted in the current government shutdown, Speaker Pelosi is one of the most talented and determined negotiators I have ever observed in action. Beginning in 2009, I had the privilege of working closely with her staff in creating the Tax Credit Exchange Program and Tax Credit Assistance Program and other aspects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and then defending funding levels for key federal affordable housing programs until her speakership ended in 2011. I am confident that Speaker Pelosi will not only stop the anti-affordable housing forces in Congress from causing any significant new damage to federal housing funding or policies during her tenure as Speaker but will find a way to engineer some impactful budget and tax victories for affordable housing over the next two years.

2.  At the same moment that Speaker Pelosi was sworn in, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters took over leadership of the House Financial Services Committee. Ms. Waters is a long-time champion of ensuring that low-income Californians receive the federal housing assistance they deserve, as evidenced by her being a leading co-sponsor of The Ending Homelessness Act of 2017. Prior to that, I had the pleasure of working with her staff on some aspects of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016, which led to many improvements to the Housing Choice Voucher program and, most importantly for affordable housers, to key changes to the Project-Based Voucher program. While Ms. Waters’ ability to move new housing legislation through Congress will be circumscribed by opponents of investing more in affordable housing in the White House and Senate, count on her to use her pulpit as Committee Chairwoman to hold HUD and other Trump Administration agencies accountable in implementing Fair Housing and other housing-related regulations and initiatives.

3.  Beginning today when Governor-elect Gavin Newsom is sworn in, we will finally have a California Governor who believes that the State has a role in doing whatever it can to ensure that we have an adequate supply of housing for all of our residents, not just those who can afford to pay what the market will bear. While it is just the beginning of his administration, look for Governor Newsom to include a mention or two about the state’s role in supporting housing development when he releases his proposed budget next week and to be an aggressive advocate for helping correct California’s housing shortfall during his tenure.

4.  Pro-affordable housing super majorities are now at work in both the State Assembly and the State Senate with the ability to raise new sources of funding to benefit affordable housing and related fields, including some form of a replacement for Redevelopment funding (SB 5 and AB 11, for example), which I believe will get put into place by 2020. I also expect the Legislature will once again approve the expansion of California’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit program proposed by David Chiu (AB 10), which the California Housing Partnership helped draft in 2015 and which we are co-sponsoring for the fourth year in a row. More importantly, I expect Governor Newsom, who included this expansion in his housing platform as a candidate, will sign the bill in recognition of the nearly unanimous support it has earned and demonstrate that unlike his predecessor, he understands that this investment is a critical one that will return many benefits for California.

5.  Thanks to the passage of last year’s Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, which refilled state affordable housing funding programs to the tune of nearly $3 billion, and Proposition 2, which authorized $2 billion for the No Place Like Home program, we now have nearly $5 billion in new California capital and operating funds to invest in the development and preservation of affordable housing over the next five years. Thank you to the state and regional partners who played important roles in this victory and of course to the Legislative leaders who put these measures on the ballot.

For the above reasons and more, I am looking forward to working with all of you in 2019 to help the new leadership in Washington and Sacramento succeed in bringing more safe and affordable homes and services to California’s lower income families, seniors, homeless and disabled. Wishing us all a productive and successful 2019.