Senator Wahab Discusses Need for SB 555 – Affordable Housing and Climate Change

Special to the Vanguard

On Tuesday in Sacramento, Senator Wahab and the Stable Affordable Housing Act (SB 555) sponsors and supporters called on the legislature to support SB 555 as an essential step in creating a pathway to sustainable and resilient housing that can better attend to the needs of lower-income residents and Californians of color who are disproportionately displaced to high-risk disaster zones in the aftermath of climate emergencies.

Remarks by Senator Aisha Wahab

We are gathered here to specifically talk about Senate Bill 555. The reality is that housing is a human right. We know that we say that we believe that. I personally believe that everyone deserves affordable, safe, and dignified housing.

The reality is that housing and homelessness are the number one issue for the majority of constituents here in California. It is literally the number one issue for the majority of cities that conduct surveys within their own jurisdiction and what people are worried about.

And yet at the same time, we don’t talk about housing enough. We don’t talk about the housing struggles people have. We talk about development, but we don’t talk about affordability. And one of the things that SB 555 will ensure is that we can meet the affordable housing needs of Californians, especially those who are very low and low income.

And the honest truth of it is that this is the foundation of any landmark bill that we are going to move forward with in regards to understanding what we have to produce, protect and preserve affordable housing. We don’t do it enough. SB 555 would identify pathways towards developing 1.4 million stable affordable homes for Californians via public, nonprofit and cooperative housing production and acquisition. We need to talk about affordability.

We also understand that in this last week, we’ve had Southern California hit with nearly 12 inches of rain in 24 hours. We know that environmental justice is very much a part of housing justice. We know that when we see the fires and literally fires destroying neighborhoods and entire cities, those are now refugee populations. They’re struggling to be sheltered with their loved ones, their seniors, their children … they’re animals, their pets, and what are we doing when we can’t identify what we have?

We talk about being the fourth largest economy in the world. What does that mean when Californians can’t even afford to live in the city they grew up in? That’s what we’re talking about. SB 5 55 does in fact work very much to focus on environmental justice because the more and more in my district, when condos and townhomes are priced at $1.3 million as a starter home, who can live there, they’re moving further and further away from the Bay Area.

They’re becoming what we call super commuters, super commuters that literally spend three hours of their life every single day driving to work because the jobs are still in the Bay, right? That’s just an example locally from my area.

And the lack of density and affordability keep pushing renters to the fringes of our counties where there’s less infrastructure and increased risk of fire and flooding, and much more communities rebuilding from fires become more susceptible to mudslides, following intense rains like we saw earlier this year and just this past weekend, our communities deserve stable, affordable, and resilient housing that can resist market and climate forces.

SB 555 is one of the most important housing bills in the state legislature today. It has passed the Senate floor with significant support. It has passed the Assembly Housing Committee as well as many other members signing on.

We have a coalition here built of advocates, people that fight for human rights, housing rights, and environmental justice. We need to do more and we ask you all to write to your elected officials. Call them, email them, but also reach out to the governor’s office to make sure that this bill is signed.

Remarks by the main introductory speaker…

Today, the California Green New Deal Coalition and California Environmental Justice Alliance, together with our members, partners, and allies are coming here to bring our community’s voices to Sacramento. These communities are in crisis and it’s not a singular crisis alone. In California, we’re seeing what happens when crises converge.

We have a housing crisis that leaves rent unaffordable for millions, and hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing homelessness. Every day across the state, people are living in aging, inadequate, unsafe, and unhealthy conditions. All of this, while real estate corporations continue to make incredible profits off of speculation on land and housing that is for profit and not for people; all of this is made worse and in some cases deadly by climate change.

What happens to people when disasters hit and they live in unsafe housing or don’t have a roof over their head? This past weekend we saw a hurricane hit Southern California, and just last month we saw a record-breaking heat wave sweep the state.

This has become the new normal and we are not ready. We must face the fact that climate is not its own issue. We must also understand that housing is not its own issue. These are both deeply related and interconnected. We deserve beautiful, resilient, and carbon-free homes.

We also know that substandard and unstable housing makes people more vulnerable to increasingly frequent and intense climate impacts, but we know we can’t rely on the for-profit housing market alone to do this.

So addressing the housing crisis by deeply addressing, by deeply investing in healthy and resilient homes is a climate strategy.

This is why the California Green New Deal Coalition has prioritized green social housing as a vision for what we’re fighting for today. To say it again, housing justice is climate justice.

Our climate strategy must be for everyone to have a healthy, affordable home and electrifying someone’s home doesn’t help them if they can’t afford to live there. And that having a home won’t help if our world is on fire. So we’re calling on the state to commit to green social housing.

This is a proven model from across the world that can combat housing on affordability, and we have proven models here in California such as community land trusts that can give us hope for a better future.

This model is deeply needed and we have an opportunity for the state to begin to take real action through SB 555.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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    1. David Greenwald

      “This bill creates the Stable Affordable Housing Act of 2023 (Act) for the purposes of planning for and funding, upon appropriation, the development of social housing through a mix of acquisition and new production.”

      Basically it alters the current HCD housing process to plan for social housing…

      2) Sets a 10-year goal of creating 1.2 million units of social housing through a mix of acquisition and new production.

      3) Sets a five-year goal of creating 600,000 units of social housing through a mix of acquisition and new production, of which no less than 200,000 units that are affordable to ELI and VLI households.

      4) Requires HCD, no later than January 1, 2025, to develop, adopt, and submit to the legislature a Social Housing Plan for achieving the social housing unit goals set forth in the Act

      1. Keith Olsen

        Where’s the funding?  So in other words it isn’t funded but the state legislators will institute this law and the funding will miraculously appear later?

  1. Ron Oertel

    What does that mean when Californians can’t even afford to live in the city they grew up in?

    It means that you move to places like Davis, Woodland, etc.

    Unless they’re living in a rent-controlled unit, in which case they would be able to live in the city they grew up in.

    The reality is that housing is a human right. We know that we say that we believe that.

    The reality is that this isn’t a reality.  There is no “right to housing” in the constitution or anywhere else.  You can “believe” whatever you want.

    David:  Same way that housing is currently funded.

    So you’re saying it won’t be funded.

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