By Chujun Tang
SACRAMENTO, CA – Last Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced more than 923 million dollars in awards for affordable housing across California as part of the California Housing Accelerator program, to rescue construction suspended for shortage in funds.
The new funding is a continuation of the state’s investments in housing. Last year’s California Comeback Plan invested an unprecedented 22 billion dollars to tackle the housing affordability crisis in California, with 10.3 billion dollars to build more affordable housing and 12 billion dollars allocated for homelessness and behavioral health services.
Now the housing project has received more financial support and will take effect soon. With 1.75 billion dollars invested in the Housing Accelerator, 27 statewide projects have been approved to date. The projects were estimated to create 2,300 housing units, 500 of which are kept for the homeless.
Gustavo Velasquez, Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), pointed out the biggest bottleneck preventing California from building more affordable housing, saying “when we launched the California Housing Accelerator, we had clear objectives – eliminate the backlog of projects standing in long lines for tax credits and bonds, bring affordable housing to communities in need, and reduce the amount of time and money involved in preparing to make these homes available.”
Fortunately, HCD is finalizing the project solicitation for the next round of the California accelerator, which will be released in mid-February. For the next phase of projects, an additional 735 million dollars will be available.
A quartet of San Francisco affordable housing development projects received a total of 200 million dollars from the new state housing accelerator fund. The money from the fund will finance construction projects in Potrero Hill, Treasure Island, Market Street and the Tenderloin.
All four projects are fully approved and expected to begin this year, according to San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “These funds come at a critical time in San Francisco,” said Mayor Breed. “They will help us continue to deliver desperately needed affordable housing units for our families, workers and individuals exiting homelessness.”
The California Housing Accelerator is still facing significant headwinds, however. The most well-known case is the “mountain lion sanctuary” Woodside on the San Francisco Peninsula. The wealthy suburb exempted itself from the state law allowing more housing by declaring the entire town mountain lion habitat.
Woodside skirted the law under the guise of environmental issues. Environmentalists have expressed their misgivings about the feasibility of the state’s proposed housing projects, citing increasingly harsh climates during wildfire season.
Long term opponents of large-scale construction are seeking support in courts. Last month, a judge in Northern California forced a pause on the Guenoc Valley project, which was to be built atop 16,000 acres of open ranch land, oak woodlands and untouched savannah near Calistoga.
“Local governments and developers have a responsibility to take a hard look at projects that exacerbate wildfire risk and endanger our communities,” Rob Bonta, California’s current attorney general, said after the Guenoc Valley ruling. “We must build responsibly.”