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Antonio Villaraigosa wants to bring back an urban renewal program to fund low-income housing

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is running for governor. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is running for governor. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California candidate for governor Antonio Villaraigosa wants the state to bring back an urban renewal program to fund low-income housing.

"Solving our state's growing housing crisis will take a sustained commitment and creative thinking," Villaraigosa wrote in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. "But when it comes to giving local governments the tools they need, we don't need to reinvent the wheel."

Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers eliminated a state redevelopment program in 2011 as a cost-cutting move aimed at saving nearly $2 billion during the state's budget crisis. The program allowed cities to target run-down neighborhoods for investment and use a share of property tax dollars generated by development to fund improvements, including financing low-income housing. But doing so required the state to spend more to support public schools, and Brown derided the agencies as being rife with abuses of taxpayer dollars.

Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles, said a revived program would allow for greater state assistance to address housing problems.

Lawmakers passed a large package of housing legislation earlier this month, including a new real estate transaction fee and a bond measure for the November 2018 ballot. But even with that new spending, state subsidies will remain billions of dollars' short of what's needed to finance housing for its neediest residents, according to state and third-party estimates.

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