Housing Is A Human Right SB 50

California’s SB 50, A Luxury-Housing Bill, Is Fundamentally Flawed

In News by Housing Is A Human Right

Housing Is A Human Right (HHR), the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, releases the following statement on California State Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill SB 50. HHR Director René Christian Moya is available for comment, and will be attending the California State Senate Housing Committee hearing for SB 50 at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, at the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

California State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50 is fundamentally flawed. Ultimately, it is a trickle-down, luxury-housing, real estate deregulation bill that doesn’t urgently address a statewide housing affordability crisis that’s unfolding right now. Millions of middle- and working-class Californians, particularly people of color, desperately need stable, affordable housing. Many face the life-altering prospect of becoming homeless.

Experts and activists agree that any serious, urgent effort to fix California’s housing affordability crisis must include the “3 Ps”: protect tenants through such policies as rent control and just cause eviction; preserve existing affordable housing such as rent-controlled units; and produce truly affordable housing. SB 50 fails to undertake any of these key solutions in an immediate, substantive, and long-term way. Housing Is A Human Right opposes Wiener’s bill.

The real estate industry and its allies — Senator Wiener, California YIMBY, the California Apartment Association, among others — will attempt to confuse the public with “trickle-down” housing theory and talk about a “housing crisis.” But millions of Californians are getting slammed by a very specific emergency: a housing affordability crisis. We don’t need solutions, such as SB 50, that primarily push for more luxury housing.

In 2016, Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell made that clear: “There’s a growing divide in the rental market right now. Very high demand at the low end of the market is being met with more supply at the high end, an imbalance that will only contribute to growing affordability concerns for all renters… Apartment construction at the low end needs to start ramping up, and soon, in order to see real improvement.”

Gudell said that two years ago, and state legislators such as Wiener still haven’t addressed this fundamental problem. In fact, Wiener is aggravating the housing affordability crisis with his luxury-housing agenda — and he’s deregulating the real estate market for an industry that’s only shown concern for bigger profits, no matter the consequences to the middle- and working-class.

(Reporters should read official letters by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on adequate housing about Blackstone Group’s troubling role in the global housing affordability crisis. Blackstone, helmed by billionaire and Trump supporter Stephen Schwarzman, contributed $7.4 million to stop California’s Proposition 10.)

How could Wiener be so wrong in addressing California’s housing affordability crisis?

A recent Housing Is A Human Right investigation found that Wiener has long relied on campaign contributions from the real estate industry to win elected office and stay in power. That’s especially true for his near defeat in 2016 as he ran for the state senate — he’s already raised $153,816 from Big Real Estate for his 2020 re-election bid. He’s determined to not only push legislation that benefits his political patrons, but he also stays clear of policies that would hurt their outsized profits.

The most glaring example is that Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, refused to endorse Proposition 10, which sought to repeal statewide rent control restrictions. The real estate industry, including many of Wiener’s campaign contributors, spent $77.3 million to defeat the initiative in November. Yet the ballot measure was backed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the California Democratic Party, the California Nurses Association, the California Teachers Association, the California Labor Federation, the Sierra Club, and many other progressive leaders and organizations.

We urge California Governor Gavin Newsom and state legislators to stop Wiener’s fundamentally flawed, real estate deregulation bill. Instead, they should pass legislation that implements the “3 Ps”: protect tenants; preserve existing affordable housing; and produce truly affordable housing. It’s the most logical, humane, and urgent way to address California’s housing affordability crisis.

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