California lawmakers pitch substantial new spending on low-income housing

The Los Angeles Times, Liam Dillon

Low-income housing developments in California could receive a continued infusion of public subsidies under proposals unveiled this week by state lawmakers.

Multiple new bills call for new funding for low-income housing through a revival of an urban redevelopment program and by increasing tax credits to fund new projects. Legislators have failed to pass versions of the same measures in years past, but have new hopes because Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom campaigned on spending more money on housing. They also point out the state budget’s bottom line remains strong.

“Our housing crisis is dire and persistent, and our state must be just as aggressive and persistent in order to solve it,” Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) said in a statement. “With a new governor and an extraordinary budget surplus, now is the time to make significant, ongoing investments in affordable housing.”

Chiu’s Assembly Bill 10 would increase the state’s allocation of low-income housing tax credits by $500 million — a fivefold increase over the current limit and the figure that Newsom proposed during his gubernatorial campaign. The system allows housing developers to apply to the state for credits that investors buy to lower their own tax payments. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed an attempt to boost the tax credit in 2015, citing costs to the state budget.

Assembly Bill 11, also from Chiu, would reinstitute a system that allowed cities and counties to sequester property tax dollars generated from growth in designated neighborhoods to use for economic development and affordable housing. Brown spearheaded the elimination of the prior program, known as redevelopment, amid the depths of the state budget crisis in 2011. Chiu’s new bill would require 30% of the money to be set aside for low-income housing projects.