Borrow big for homes

Bond measure for the November ballot sees groundswell of interest group support

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the April 12, 2018, issue.

With the United States losing 10,000 public housing units a year and California rents far outpacing income, many nonprofits are lining up behind a state ballot initiative aimed at securing shelter for veterans, low-income families and people with disabilities.

Dubbed the Veterans and Affordable Bond Act, the measure would put $3 billion into the construction of low-income units, while also channeling funds into the California Veterans Home Loan program. Last fall, more than 170 nonprofits, companies and local governments supported a state senate bill to fast-track the measure’s inclusion on the November ballot without the standard-signature gathering. In some cases, backers included groups typically at loggerheads over housing, such as Tenants Together and the California Apartment Association.

Marina Wiant is vice president of government affairs for the California Housing Consortium, one of four major sponsors of the bond. Wiant notes that, regardless of where advocacy groups fall on contentious housing issues, there’s a general consensus that California needs to build more low-income units and provide more below-market-rate mortgage loans.

“We’ve been pushing since the end of redevelopment [funding] to get a new housing bond on the ballot, especially with one-in-three Californians unable to pay their rent,” Wiant told SN&R. “This is the first housing bond we’ll have seen in the last 12 years.”

One of the nonprofit groups that supported getting the bond in front of voters in November was the California Coalition for Rural Housing. In February, its executive director, Robert Wiener, spoke at a forum in Sacramento on the housing crisis. Wiener stressed that the severity of the problem is beginning to drive young talent out of California, which he said will only get worse as burgeoning rents collide with massive amounts of student debt.

“I doubt the private market is going to build for all of the segments of California,” Wiener said. “We’re going to end up being a state of housing-haves, and housing have-nots.”