Chiu Bill to Create a Legal Obligation to Reduce Homelessness Passes First Committee

Legislation would create a statewide homelessness strategy and ensure governments take steps to address homelessness

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA—A bill authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) that would ensure all state and local governments are working to meaningfully address homelessness passed the Assembly Housing Committee today. AB 816 would undertake a statewide planning process to reduce homelessness and hold governments accountable to those plans through a newly created Housing and Homelessness Inspector General position. 

“State and local governments need to be rowing in the same direction toward the same goal if we are ever to see a significant reduction in homelessness,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “Homelessness is the moral crisis of our time, and this bill ensures governments at all levels are responsible for addressing it.”

Homelessness remains a vexing problem in California with over 160,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night. The state has the largest unsheltered population in the nation. As California has seen COVID outbreaks in shelters and congregate settings, the pandemic has only made the need to reduce homelessness more urgent.

In recent years, state government has taken important steps and allocated significant one-time investments to address homelessness, but there is still no coordinated plan among state and local governments to tackle this issue. While many local governments have tried valiantly to house those experiencing homelessness in their jurisdictions, others have taken no action and perpetuate myths about homelessness that allow them to shirk responsibility all together. There is currently no legal requirement for local governments to take steps to reduce homelessness in California.

AB 816 would require state and local governments to develop actionable plans to reduce homelessness by 90 percent by December 31, 2029. The Department of Housing and Community Development would review and approve the plans created. 

To ensure accountability, AB 816 would establish a Housing and Homelessness Inspector General that can take legal action against a state or local government for failing to submit or follow a plan to reduce homelessness. However, AB 816 ensures local governments are only held accountable for what they are fiscally able to bear by considering their level of existing resources. 

The bill would also require a thorough analysis of all existing homelessness programs in California and the overall need for housing interventions and homelessness services. 

Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) are coauthors of AB 816. 

The Corporation for Supportive Housing, Housing California, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and the Steinberg Institute are cosponsoring AB 816. The bill comes out of work done by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, led by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles City Council Member Mark Ridley-Thomas.

"I applaud Assemblymember Chiu's bold leadership to create a legally-enforceable mandate," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. "It should no longer be optional for governments to ensure every Californian has a safe and affordable place to live. Housing is a basic human right, as important as education, health care and other services governments provide." 

“As a member of the Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, CSH is thrilled to see a big focus of the Council’s recommendations captured in this bill,” said Sharon Rapport, Director of California State Policy for the Corporation for Supportive Housing. “The bill ensures our jurisdictions can allocate resources with a clear understanding of California’s gaps, along with a vision and path for filling those gaps. In so doing, our state and local programs will become more effective, more accountable, and more responsive to data. We are honored to be working with Asm. Chiu on this important bill.”

“With over 150,000 Californians experiencing homelessness on any given night, we need to respond with an effective, data-driven strategy for reducing homelessness,” said Chirs Martin, Policy Director for Housing California. “AB 3269 will do that, by assessing gaps in state funding, requiring state and local agencies to set clear metrics and goals, and holding them accountable to meeting those goals.”

"AB 816 mirrors California's successful approach to major challenges like greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy," said Julie Snyder, Government Affairs Director for the Steinberg Institute. "Public and private sector partners will develop an ambitious but achievable plan, measure progress regularly, and course-correct to stay on track. If California can tackle climate change with all of its complexities, surely we can reduce homelessness and ensure people with a severe mental illness have a safe, stable place to live."

AB 816 will now move on for a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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