State Assembly speaker pushes plan to fund more affordable housing

Assembly bills would generate more than a half-billion in new funding for affordable housing

The top Democrat in California's State Assembly visited Chinatown on Wednesday to unveil a plan to boost affordable housing in the state.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins is proposing a new $75 fee on many real estate transactions, with the proceeds dedicated to financing the development of more apartments for low- and moderate-income Californians.

It's part of a broader package Atkins is pushing that would boost the state's low-income housing tax credit by $300 million, set up guidelines for allocating new federal housing money expected to start flowing next year, and use a portion of funds from Proposition 47 to develop housing programs for recently released prisoners.

All told, the package would establish more than a half-billion dollars in new housing funds.

"Housing instability is affecting more people than ever before, including young people and families," Atkins said. "To make inroads against California's housing issues, the Assembly is taking a comprehensive approach to increasing the amount of affordable housing in our state."

Some of these ideas have been tried before as California has searched for permanent funding sources to replace dried-up bond funds and now-shut-down redevelopment agencies.

The transaction fee -- which Atkins' office projects would raise "a few hundred million" dollars -- was proposed in a Senate bill last year but stalled amid opposition from trade groups such as the California Assn. of Realtors, which worried it could further drive up the cost of housing.

Those concerns may still exist. Alex Creel, chief lobbyist at the Realtors group, said he's been meeting with Atkins' office about the plan but had yet to see detailed legislation. Any new funds for a statewide concern like affordable housing, he said, should be shared broadly across as many Californians as possible.

"To place the entire burden on real estate recordings, we don't think is fair and equitable," he said.

Southern California routinely ranks among the least-affordable housing markets in the country, and a study last year by a group of nonprofit housing developers estimated that Los Angeles County needs 500,000 more apartments that are affordable to low-income renters.

Keep an eye on housing and real estate in Southern California. Follow  @bytimlogan on Twitter.

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