Legal & Legislative: Housing and Wildfire Update

7/17/19

Housing & Homelessness Budget

Housing Affordability
The Governor and Legislature are recognizing the high cost of housing is a defining quality-of-life concern in California. In order to increase housing supply, the Budget makes several investments to accelerate the production of new housing, and supports local governments to meet their required housing goals.

  • The Budget invests $1.75 billion in the production and planning of new housing. It includes support to local governments to increase housing production, including $750 million in grants.
  • The Budget has taken measures to hold local jurisdictions accountable to meet housing demand, including creation of new provisions allowing fines and penalties for failure to provide sufficient land for housing.
  • To assist renters, the Budget includes $20 million to provide legal aid for renters and assist with landlord-tenant disputes, including legal assistance for counseling, renter education programs, and preventing evictions 

Homelessness
California is facing a homelessness epidemic across the state. Recognizing the importance of mental health supports in the fight against homelessness, the Budget includes an historic $1 billion investment, which will:

  • Provide homelessness emergency aid to local governments for emergency housing vouchers, rapid rehousing programs and emergency shelter construction.  This includes $650 million to large cities, counties, and regional agencies.
  • Increase mental health supports, which includes expanding Whole Person Care services that provide wrap-around health, behavioral health and housing services, and building strategies to address the shortage of mental health professionals in the public mental health system
  • Fund rapid rehousing and basic needs initiatives for students in the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems

Wildfire Bill Passage

AB 1054 (Holden), along with AB 111 (Budget Trailer Bill), passed today.  The bills were on a fast timeline after Governor Newsom stated his desire to sign legislation to better prepare the state for future fires and stabilize the financial health of the investor owned utilities.  The result was AB 1054.  The bill will make significant changes to the way utilities plan for wildfires and maintain power lines.  It also makes it easier for utilities to recover wildfire costs from ratepayers, so long as they are abiding by their safety plans.  Finally, it establishes a liability fund to help pay for future wildfire liability, which is paid for by both ratepayers and shareholders.  The bill creates several new departments and boards, which are formalized and provided a budget by AB 111.  AB 1054 is being characterized by some as being a giveaway and contains language that may make it more difficult for cities like San Francisco to municipalize the PG&E infrastructure in their territory.  Despite that, it was able to secure 2/3 votes in both the Assembly and Senate and is set to be signed by the Governor.

Preparedness in the Budget
The Budget ago also contains investments in wildfire preparedness.  The Governor and Legislature, recognizing climate change has created a new normal that impacts Californians all across the state, took actions to build resiliency, increase response and tackle recovery. The Budget invests nearly $1 billion as follows:

  • Includes $225.8 million to implement forest health and wildfire prevention efforts
  • Builds resilience to ensure every community is prepared in the face of a disaster with investments in community emergency preparedness, 9-1-1 system upgrades and earthquake warning system development
  • Funds new firefighting resources and technology so Cal FIRE has state-of-the-art tools at its disposal when responding to disasters, including:
  • $127.2 million for C-130 Air Tankers and twenty-first century firefighting helicopters
  • $130.3 million for better communication equipment for first responders
  • Supporting communities so they can get back on their feet after a disaster, including investment in local property tax backfill, Camp Fire Recovery and the California Disaster Assistance Act