Editor's note: An attempt to reach out to the Yes on Prop 10 campaign was made.
Both gubernatorial candidates have a lot to say about how to fix our housing crisis. They have great ideas about how to expedite housing construction, increase inventory and reduce costs for families looking to achieve the American Dream of homeownership.
Unfortunately, these ideas don’t exist in a political vacuum and there are existing and future threats that will build more barriers to construction, make our housing crisis worse and overall make life more difficult for California’s working class. As a lifelong advocate against exclusionary housing policies and who now fights for minorities to own homes, build wealth and achieve middle-income status with real upward economic mobility, I am very concerned that the good work being promoted by our gubernatorial candidates will be undone before it can start.
The most immediate threat to a housing solution is Prop 10, the well-intentioned but flawed rental housing initiative that will be on the ballot this November. If passed, this initiative will make the housing crisis worse, not better. Most importantly, it doesn’t increase the number of affordable housing units in the state, nor does it make it easier to build affordable housing in communities of color. It provides incentives for landlords to convert rental units to condos or short-term vacation rentals, further reducing the number of rental units available drives up costs even higher.
Prop 10 also extends rent control to single-family homes. Even those who rent out a room for extra money, especially given the high cost of living in this state, will be subject to the new rent control rules. We absolutely must do something to address the high costs of housing and rents, and the proponents of Prop 10 may be well intentioned, but Prop 10 isn’t the answer.
We’ve seen this before—where well-intentioned policies have disproportionately affected communities of color, especially when it comes to housing. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the prime example. Originally intended to balance environmental needs with development, it has become a political weapon to deny housing and other opportunities to low-income and minority communities.
The Two Hundred, which I helped co-found with other civil rights leaders, has had to sue or otherwise intervene when environmental groups and regulators have abused CEQA. These groups threatened to stop construction of UC Merced, which is the only campus in the Central Valley and serves the highest percent of Latino students of any UC campus. Using CEQA has become the most common tactic to stop affordable housing developments and is the favorite tool of NIMBYs throughout the state.
Yet, despite the obviously racist and classist undertones of many CEQA lawsuits, the Legislature lacks the political will to fix it and end the abuse. I hope the next governor will be with us in reforming CEQA to bring it back to its original intent, not allow it to remain the single largest barrier to construction, especially for affordable housing.
Housing must be one of the next governor’s top priorities. Owning a home is the single best way for families of color to build wealth they can pass on to future generations. This is the American Dream, to own a home and provide our children with a better life than the ones we had. But until we defeat Prop 10, and make a serious commitment to reforming CEQA, we will not be able to make the investments we need to truly address this crisis.
John Gamboa is the co-founder of The Two Hundred, a coalition of more than 200 social justice leaders.