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Lawmakers reintroduce legislation to spend billions on low-income housing subsidies

State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) (Hector Amezcua / Associated Press)
State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) (Hector Amezcua / Associated Press)

After failing to pass new funding to tackle the state’s housing affordability crisis last session, two state senators are trying again.

Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) have re-introduced legislation to add a $75 fee to real estate transactions, which is expected to generate hundreds of millions a year for low-income housing construction, and place a $3-billion bond to finance low-income housing before voters in 2018, respectively.

Both bills were unveiled as part of Senate Democrats’ package of new spending plans to finance improvements in housing, transportation, water and parks infrastructure.

“Now is the time to rebuild the critical infrastructure that keeps our state moving and growing,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in a statement. “Our families and businesses depend on affordable housing, safe and reliable roads and transportation options, and access to clean drinking water and healthy open spaces.”

Neither Atkins’ nor Beall’s bill passed last year. But Democrats now have a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature, a margin that both bills require because they’re revenue measures.

California’s median home value of $479,600 is more than two and a half times the national average and rising.

Last year, the state’s major housing affordability efforts stalled. Lawmakers rejected a plan from Gov. Jerry Brown to streamline local approval for housing projects as a way to rein in costs. In turn, Brown held back $400 million in low-income housing subsidies he had agreed to spend had the Legislature acted on his proposal.

Major labor and environmental groups helped torpedo the governor's effort, citing concerns about construction worker wages and sidestepping environmental laws. The same coalition told lawmakers this week they would support streamlining local approval for projects solely reserved for low-income residents among a host of other policies that aim to boost low-income housing development.

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