Assemblymember Alex Lee Introduces Bill to Establish Social Housing

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose) introduced AB 387 which would establish Social Housing to provide affordable housing for all Californians. Social Housing, inspired by successful models in Europe and Asia, will significantly address our housing crisis by developing homes for the social benefit of all Californians. 

“Families are increasingly being priced out of the communities they’ve built and are leaving California for more affordable housing markets,” said Lee. “We have an opportunity to reshape how we view housing – not as a commodity, but as a fundamental human right. Social Housing is how we provide housing as a human right.”

“A safe and affordable place to live should be a right, not a privilege – and that certainly hasn’t been the case in California,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland). “We need every tool in our toolbox to meet our affordable housing goals, especially as our state begins to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an issue of housing justice, and it’s incumbent upon the legislature to create and support policies with human rights front of mind.”

Social housing programs, which have been successfully implemented in Vienna and in Singapore, offer a tried-and-true solution to the housing crisis. The State of California has rightly set ambitious housing targets to meet the dire need of its residents yet does not directly provide housing for the millions in need. Learning from successive models to create mixed-income, safe, and dignified housing for all strata of society, California can lead a national paradigm shift. 

In Vienna and Singapore, 62% and 87% of its citizens respectively reside in public social housing. With the ultimate goal of housing as many people as possible of all incomes, social housing programs invest in affordable living costs and maintenance of properties. As a contrast to private developers, without an inherent need to turn a profit, investments can be made into maintenance of the buildings, grounds, and upgrades. 

The mortgages offered by Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB) have monthly payments that are significantly lower than private rents. This has resulted in a homeownership rate of 91 percent despite severe land constraint. HDB properties cater to a range of population from lower income to upper-middle-income households.

“If we want California to be an equal land of opportunity, we must do everything in our power to keep the housing affordable in this state,” said Lee.

According to a 2015 California Housing Budget and Policy Center study, in California, more than four in ten households had unaffordable housing costs (which is defined as exceeding 30 percent of household income). More than one in five households statewide faced severe housing cost burdens, spending more than half of their income toward housing expenses.

Concurrently, California has now been experiencing an extended and increasing housing shortage for nearly 50 years. In 2018, California ranked 49th among the United States in housing units per resident.

With stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, the pandemic has underscored the importance of access to safe, stable, and affordable housing,” said Lee. “Affordable housing will play a critical role in our economic recovery and moving toward a more equitable California for all.”

 

Media contact: Charlsie Chang; charlsie.chang@asm.ca.gov

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Assemblymember Alex Lee sits on the Budget Committee as well as the Committees on Education, Transportation, Privacy & Consumer Protection, and Rules. He represents the 25th Assembly District which includes the cities of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose, and Santa Clara.