State of California Housing Initiatives. Part V

In creating a truly prosperous society, one essential factor that must be considered is the well-being of all its people. And even though the “Golden State” remains one of the top-performing economies in the United States, the existing inequality gaps in housing – and otherwise – render it poor.

Although California is racially diverse in its setup and prides itself for that, the ethnic concentration of homeowners presents an entirely different narrative. According to homeownership data obtained in 2019, Blacks and Latinos occupy the bottom rung of homeowners within the state. Similarly, black Americans hold the highest percentage of homeless people within the state, standing at a towering figure of forty percent. Although these figures are attributed to many factors – such as the lingering results of Jim Crow attitudes, it is still critical to examine state policies that cater to the housing of minorities and hopefully bridge the gaps.

Section 8 Housing

The section 8 housing program is a federal government-led initiative aimed at addressing some of the challenges faced by low-income earners across the United States. It seeks to afford people, particularly elders, disabled, and poor people, the opportunity to live in decent apartments. The term “section 8” itself is derived from the Housing and Community Development Act 1974, with the sole intention of democratizing housing opportunities. The available homes are put up at fair market rates to enable easy access. Basically, it is a subsidy, an arrangement between the individual and the government. In that framework, the state pays a percentage of the rent on their behalf. In California, the program runs alongside state authorities for its implementation. However, the program is not automatically available; home seekers must first scale the qualification processes before they can get this assistance.

Executive Order N-06-19

As part of the measures to expand housing opportunities for Californians, Gavin Newsom, the State Governor, signed an executive order which aims to provide affordable housing for citizens. The initiative is led by the Department of General Services and the Department of Housing and Community Development, both tasked with identifying excess housing resources owned by the state. This program seeks to improve the grim spiral in rents and homelessness.

Project Roomkey

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inherent public health dangers of lack of access to housing in the state. Homeless people couldn’t observe any of the precautionary health measures. Thus in April 2020, the unpreceded initiative, which used funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide shelter for homeless people in hotel/motel rooms, was launched. The program reached about 20% of the state’s homeless.

Asides from the commendable moves by the state government to reverse the crisis, other actors work independently to close the gaps. These are private agencies such as the Seaside-based Coalition of Homeless Service Providers who work to relieve the burdens of homeless people.

Despite the state’s initiatives to beat inequities in housing and reduce the rate of homelessness, it still remains among the worst-performing states in the country. With ever sky-rocketing home costs, disproportionately higher home loans for African Americans, and racial gaps in income – even for college graduates – true freedom to achieve the American Dream in all its entirety is denied the Black people. For us, the struggle for equality and fairness in housing is far from over.

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