In his January budget proposal to the state Legislature, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a clear message: California needs to move people off the streets.

“I don’t want to see any more people die in the streets and call that compassion,” Newsom said Monday, detailing his $286.4 billion blueprint. “There is nothing compassionate about someone dying in the streets or stepping over someone on the streets or sidewalks.”

Newsom proposed $2 billion to address California homelessness – including $1.5 billion to buy and set up “tiny homes” and other temporary shelter options, which tend to fall far short of need and which he conceded would only be a “bridge” to permanent housing with services.

While substantial, the governor’s request pales in comparison to the funding he and the Legislature approved last year – $12 billion to create mostly homeless housing and board and care facilities, as well as to fund green-lit affordable housing projects.

“What we’re offering this year is additional money to find a bridge to the permanent supportive housing, and that’s tiny homes, that’s procuring treatment, that’s house slots and shelter slots in the interim,” Newsom said.

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The governor projected that the money would mean another 11,000 beds for people experiencing homelessness, on top of 44,000 that will be created with last year’s budget.

The remaining $500 million in homeless dollars would go toward grants for local governments to relocate people living in encampments on vacant lots and under freeway overpasses – a ten-fold increase from the funding approved last year and that will be distributed this summer. 

Demand so far has outpaced supply, according to the agency in charge of reviewing grant applications: on Jan. 6, the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency reported it had received requests for $120 million from more than 26 cities and 10 counties.

Christopher Martin, legislative advocate for Housing California, lamented the lack of funds to move people experiencing homelessness into already-existing housing more quickly.

“There’s not a dime in here that is going towards rental assistance or permanent housing,” he said. “Building shelter and treatment beds, that takes time. That’s going to take years. These people are dealing with the elements today.”

Rental assistance to keep those housed in their homes is also running out, however. The state has received relief applications totaling $6.8 billion, according to its dashboard, but received $5.2 billion from the federal government, about half of which local jurisdictions administer.

The agency previously expressed confidence the need would be filled by another round of federal funding, but in response to California’s $1.9 billion request to the U.S. Treasury Department, the state received only $62 million on Friday, Newsom said.

“And so, for the purposes of this budget, we are looking to continue to engage directly with Treasury, the Biden administration, as we have been, and directly with legislative leaders,” he added.

 

Housing and Climate Change

Newsom’s blueprint to tackle California’s housing crisis totals another $2 billion and prioritizes the state’s climate goals. “I just want to reinforce, to some extent … moving away from investments in housing that don’t focus on climate, health, integrating downtown schools, jobs, parks and restaurants,” Newsom said.

That includes about $800 million in grants to develop units and the infrastructure around them in mostly downtown areas, “in that space away from the sprawl,” the governor said. The idea is to avoid building in areas prone to wildfires, and to avoid the greenhouse gas emissions that result from long commutes.

Of that money, Newsom wants to set aside $100 million to help offset the high costs that make it difficult to turn old offices and other buildings into apartments – a practice UC Berkeley’s Terner Center found is most common in Los Angeles. Besides prioritizing downtown buildings, the grant helps meet the state’s climate goals by slashing the main culprit of construction waste: demolition. The remaining $100 million would go toward affordable housing on excess land already owned by the state.

The other $1 billion in Newsom’s housing budget is more specifically set aside for housing that is affordable to the lowest earners, with $500 million going toward the largest funding source for developers to build subsidized housing, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. The other $500 million is broken down into several measures, including $200 million to preserve deteriorating affordable housing in downtown areas, and $100 million to rehabilitate mobile home parks.

Matt Schwartz, president and CEO of the nonprofit California Housing Partnership, said while he applauds the new “short-term investments”, the money won’t come close to building the 1.2 million homes his group estimates the state needs by 2030.

“It’s time for the governor and state leaders to go beyond proposing another year of short-term assistance and instead commit to a long-term plan with sustained investments at the scale needed to solve the homeless and housing affordability crises and address climate change,” Schwartz said.

The League of California Cities was 

More Positive on Newsom’s Blueprint

“The proposal makes good on last year’s promises by the state to continue investing in housing production, as well as housing coupled with mental health services for those experiencing homelessness,” Carolyn Coleman, the league’s CEO, said in a statement. “These proposed investments are a critical down payment by the state on the long-term funding needed to solve a decades-in-the-making crisis.”  

Eleven New California Laws for 2022 

The new year brings a raft of new laws for Californians. They’re likely to affect what your neighborhood looks like, how safe you feel, what recourse you have against discrimination — even how you take out your trash.

In 2021 the Legislature’s super-majority of Democrats sent Gov. Gavin Newsom hundreds of bills that he signed into law, including several with major consequences for Californians. 

Here’s a breakdown of 11 of those new laws taking effect in 2022, most of which lawmakers approved in the last session – (a few videos cover more than one new law on the same subject).

Stripping Bad Cops of Their Badges

For decades, bad cops could skirt discipline by jumping from one California police force to another. 

That’s about to change. Soon, being convicted of offenses like sexual assault and using excessive force will be enough to kick officers out of the profession in California.

Limiting Single-Family Zoning

California has a critical housing shortage – the median home price broke $800,000 in 2021 and some experts say California needs about 3 million new homes for the growing population.

But for decades, strict zoning laws have allowed developers to build mostly single-family homes. With these two new lawshousing construction is going to look different.  

Ban on Even More Secret Settlements

Non-disclosure agreements — also called NDAs — are everywhere. They’re used in Hollywood; they’re used in tech. Sometimes, they’re used to settle claims of discrimination and harassment secretly. Starting in 2022 that will be illegal in California. 

Requiring Composting — And Limiting ‘Recyclable’ Labels

Let’s talk trash, California. This state has long fashioned itself as a “planet protector” — but in 2022 it’s taking it to a new level.

Two new laws aim to stop you from throwing food away in your regular garbage, and to stop products from carrying the chasing-arrow recycling symbol when they aren’t really recyclable.

Quicker Mental Health Care Follow-Up

Even before the pandemic, Californians were increasingly concerned about mental health care: Surveys showed people thought such care was too hard to access, and that they had to wait too long for it. The recent surge in demand brought on by the pandemic has made this even worse.
By law, health plans must offer initial mental health appointments within 10 business days. But some advocates say that’s not good enough if patients are then forced to wait weeks or months for follow-up care. This law aims to change that.

Cracking Down on Condom “Stealthing”

Consent is paramount during any sexual act, and California law now gives victims of sexual battery more power to hold perpetrators accountable.
This first-in-the-nation law tightens the definition of sexual battery to include non-consensual condom removal — a practice colloquially known as “stealthing.”

Minimum Wage for Garment Workers

The people who shape and sew raw fabrics into clothing used to get paid by the amount they produced. That system worked well for the fashion industry, but meant garment workers were getting paid as little as $3 per hour.  This year, lawmakers ended that practice.

Restricting What Police Can Do to Control Protests

California is going to do more to protect protestors seeking police reform, and the reporters covering their demonstrations. 

Both new laws come in response to chaotic scenes from protests in California and elsewhere following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

[Editor’s Note:  Videos explaining these new laws are available on CalMatters web site at https://calmatters.org/explainers/california-new-laws-2022-explained-videos]

 

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and

politics.  For more information, visit www.CalMatters.org

Read more articles from the March edition of the AOA Magazine