California Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for lawmakers to pass a more than $1.4 billion plan to address the homelessness and housing crisis ravaging the state.
Nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population resides in California, with the homeless population increasing 16.4% from 2018 to 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Homelessness isn't just an issue affecting coastal cities, Newsom says.
“This is now a dominant issue in rural California as well and we need to treat it as the emergency is,” he says.
The California legislature has until June 15 to take up or approve the governor’s plan and the state budget.
In addition to unveiling his proposed plan, which entails allocating nearly $750 million toward rent assistance and building new affordable housing, Newsom has also signed an executive order making public land near roads and freeways available for Federal Emergency Management Agency shelters to serve as temporary shelters.
“The state is taking responsibility and we are being ambitious and we recognize we have to have a multipronged, comprehensive crisis response that includes a housing first focus,” Newsom says. “But at the same time, address the immediacy of the emergency at hand by providing these temporary solutions … that we are advancing in real-time.”
Newsom’s plan comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s criticism of California and its approach to reducing homelessness. Over the summer, President Trump blamed California Democratic leadership for the current housing crisis on Twitter.
In response, Newsom says he rejects “playing politics” with the issue of homelessness to “embarrass” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or city mayors, and instead calls for everyone to look at the “humanity and the crisis that's behind it.”
“We are better than this,” Newsom says. “We're capable of doing more.”
Newsom says he is open to collaborating with the Trump administration on solutions, particularly around federal housing vouchers.
“We’ve had direct correspondence to the president. I've sent him two letters with specific requests, no snarkiness attached to those requests,” he says. “Open hand, not a closed fist.”
As California’s housing issues intensify, the number of people facing housing insecurity and homelessness continues to grow — with some taking matters into their own hands. This past December, a group of unhoused mothers occupied an empty house in Oakland, where there are an estimated 4,000 vacant parcels and a homeless population that has grown by nearly 50% over the past two years.
Newsom is sympathetic to the mother’s plight and cause, but argues, “It’s not just an unscrupulous investor that's keeping units vacant. It's about the totality of a crisis that's been decades in the making of under-developing the state's resources on this relates to its housing stock.”
“Oakland is emblematic of examples that are not generating headlines all across not only the state,” he adds, “but across this country.”
This segment aired on January 16, 2020.