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Waters Outlines Agenda in First Policy Speech as Committee Chairwoman

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “…Millions of families that rely on HUD rental assistance programs are perilously close to losing their homes due to projected lapses in funding. What’s more, it was recently reported that HUD, under Secretary Carson’s leadership, has failed to follow its own contingency plan, and as a result 1,150 project-based rental assistance contracts have expired, with hundreds more hanging in the balance if this shutdown does not end.”

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WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, delivered the following remarks during her first policy speech in the 116th Congress:

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for the very warm welcome, and to the Center for American Progress for holding this event. CAP’s research and policy work are highly respected and a valued resource for Members of Congress and our staffs. I am very pleased to be here with you today to discuss the new Congress and my priorities as Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee.

I am deeply honored to have been selected by my colleagues to become the first woman and the first African American to serve as Chair of the Financial Services Committee.  I have served on the Committee since 1991, and since 1995, I have served as Ranking Member or Chairwoman of every Subcommittee under the Committee’s jurisdiction, and have taken on important issues on behalf of consumers, investors, and vulnerable families.

So, I consider it a privilege to hold the gavel, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues on the Committee on the many critical issues we are responsible for.

Trump Shutdown

Now, given the current circumstances in Washington, I would first like to address the shutdown and its impact on the important programs under the Financial Services Committee’s jurisdiction. We are now in the midst of the longest government shutdown in history – all because this President is throwing a tantrum about a senseless border wall.

The Trump shutdown is harming hardworking Americans and our financial markets. The shutdown has all but closed the doors of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is Wall Street’s cop on the block. As a result of the shutdown, the SEC is unable to carry out most enforcement actions against bad actors.  Businesses planning to enter the stock market for the first time through an Initial Public Offering (IPO) may also be delayed because the SEC cannot approve their documents, harming American entrepreneurs and job creation.

The shutdown also has a serious impact on critical housing programs. 95% of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s staff has been furloughed. Millions of families that rely on HUD rental assistance programs are perilously close to losing their homes due to projected lapses in funding. What’s more, it was recently reported that HUD, under Secretary Carson’s leadership, has failed to follow its own contingency plan, and as a result 1,150 project-based rental assistance contracts have expired, with hundreds more hanging in the balance if this shutdown does not end.

Families aspiring to the American dream of homeownership may have their Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or rural housing loans delayed or be unable to close on their loans during the shutdown.

And in rural communities, very low-income, elderly homeowners who rely on HUD grants and loans to address health and safety hazards may not receive disbursements and as a result, may be forced to live in dangerous conditions.

These are just a few examples of the serious ways that this shutdown is harming American families and businesses. This shutdown must end immediately. I call on Republicans in Congress to join with us and put a stop to it and open the government so that we can put an end to all of the harm that this shutdown is causing.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Financial Regulation

An ongoing priority for me is ensuring that we have a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and strong financial regulation that protects consumers, investors and our economy.

Let’s talk about why the Consumer Bureau is so important.  We all remember how devastating the financial crisis was: 11 million Americans lost their homes, $13 trillion in wealth was lost, nearly 9 million Americans lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate hit 10 percent. It was catastrophic for communities across the country. The crisis was a result of Wall Street running amok, with abusive institutions peddling toxic products like no-doc loans, interest-only mortgages, and other predatory products, with no agency responsible for prioritizing consumer protection. Ultimately, the economy was sent tumbling into the abyss.

In response, Democrats crafted the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, to improve accountability in the financial system and protect consumers, investors, and the economy from abusive Wall Street practices. As the centerpiece of that law, we created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is the only federal agency solely dedicated to protecting consumers from being ripped off by financial firms.

Under former Director Richard Cordray, the Consumer Bureau returned $12 billion to more than 30 million harmed consumers; handled over 1.3 million consumer complaints about financial institutions; implemented much needed rules on mortgages, prepaid cards, payday loans, and auto title loans; required clear disclosures from financial institutions; and, provided consumers with easy-to-understand materials to empower them to make the best decisions.

But Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration have been determined to undermine and destroy the Consumer Bureau. Trump installed Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, to serve as Acting Director of the Consumer Bureau, and during his tenure, Mulvaney made it a priority to dismantle the Consumer Bureau from within. To name just a few of his actions, Mulvaney fired all members of the Consumer Advisory Board and requested zero dollars in operating funds for the Consumer Bureau from the Federal Reserve. He also created an Office of Cost Benefit Analysis as a way to internally block important regulations under the guise of cost benefit analysis.

He also moved to strip the Consumer Bureau’s Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity of its enforcement and supervisory authority. But that’s not all. Mulvaney closed the Office of Students and Young Consumers at a time when 44 million student borrowers collectively carry over $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. He also helped out payday lenders. For example, he withdrew a lawsuit against a group of deceptive payday lenders who allegedly failed to disclose the true cost of loans, which carried interest rates as high as 950 percent a year.

Now, Kathy Kraninger was confirmed as the new Director in December, and we will see what she does.  Mulvaney has since moved on to become this President’s Acting Chief of Staff. But I’ve written to Mr. Mulvaney to inform him that while his time running the Consumer Bureau may be over, the time for accountability for his actions is about to begin.

This Congress, I am going to be working diligently to undo the damage that Mulvaney has wrought during his time at the Consumer Bureau. I have a bill, the Consumers First Act, that reverses many of his known harmful actions, which I will soon be reintroducing.

But it’s not just Mick Mulvaney who I will be paying attention to. I will be keeping a watchful eye on all of the financial regulators to make sure that they are carrying out their statutory duties, including holding bad actors accountable, and promoting financial stability.

As we saw during the 2008 financial crisis, large Wall Street banks that aren’t subject to strong oversight and safeguards to protect our economy can do a lot of damage, and so in Dodd-Frank we put in place robust reforms for our largest and most complex financial institutions, including increased capital, reduced leverage, improved liquidity, vigorous stress testing, and thorough living wills, all designed to improve financial stability.  Dodd-Frank established the Financial Stability Oversight Council to eliminate regulatory gaps and improve oversight of the entire financial system, including shadow banking.  Dodd-Frank also established the Volcker Rule to ensure that big banks don’t gamble away their customers’ deposits. All of these reforms were designed to help prevent a future financial crisis. The Committee will be paying close attention to whether financial regulators try to weaken these important reforms, and keeping an eye on the big banks and their activities, including by holding many hearings.

Regulators also need to address the evolving financial marketplace appropriately. One emerging area the Financial Services Committee will be paying very close attention to is the growth of financial technology, or so-called “fintech” firms. As Americans are banking and accessing credit in new ways, it is important that we encourage responsible innovation with the appropriate safeguards in place to protect consumers and without displacing community banks and credit unions. I have great hopes that fintech firms can open up opportunities for those who have been excluded from access to responsible credit, but I strongly believe that there must be strong protections for consumers of these financial products, and that abusive payday lending practices must not be allowed. As the fintech sector grows, there are opportunities for unmet credit needs to be addressed, as well as risks that minority communities may be preyed upon or discriminated against by some of these companies. So we will be closely examining these issues in Committee to make sure that our regulators eliminate the risks, and meet the opportunities.

Credit reporting is another issue I will be scrutinizing. In the wake of the Equifax data breach, it’s absolutely critical for Congress to reform the nation’s credit reporting system. We need to shift the burden of removing mistakes from credit reports onto the credit bureaus and furnishers, and away from consumers. We also need to place limits on credit checks for employment purposes, reduce the time period that negative items stay on credit reports, and make other reforms to fix the serious problems with the credit reporting sector.  For the sake of consumers across the country, credit reporting needs a comprehensive overhaul.

Housing

A very important issue we will be bringing renewed attention to in the Financial Services Committee is housing.

This country is experiencing a housing affordability and homelessness crisis. Today, there are over half a million people experiencing homelessness here in the richest country in the world, over one-fifth of whom are children. This includes veterans who we failed to support when they returned home after serving our country, women fleeing domestic violence, people who have left prison after serving their debt to society, and people who have simply fallen on hard times. It is simply shameful, and Congress has a responsibility to act.

To tackle the homelessness crisis, Congress needs to provide a surge of funding and resources. Just as Congress puts billions of dollars into defense spending, we must provide the funding necessary to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, decent and affordable housing.

So I will soon be reintroducing my bill, the Ending Homelessness Act, which would help to ensure that every American has a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. The bill provides $13.27 billion in new funding over five years to federal programs and initiatives to prevent homelessness.

In addition, we will be holding Committee hearings on homelessness and important housing issues that have gone ignored during the last Congress, in order to elevate housing issues into a national discussion and present proactive solutions and remedies.

The Committee also has a responsibility to look at our housing finance system and address the fates of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government sponsored enterprises. The GSEs have been in government conservatorship for more than a decade.

Contrary to Republican claims, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did not cause the financial crisis. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and others have made that clear. The financial crisis was driven by predatory lending, the private market packaging those toxic, risky loans into securities and then selling those securities to unsuspecting investors. Fannie and Freddie did not drive those actions, but the events that transpired during the crisis made clear the need for their reform. When it comes to housing finance reform, I have advocated for core principles that I believe should be part of legislative efforts to address the future of housing finance reform. The principles include:

  • maintaining access to the 30-year fixed rate mortgage;
  • ensuring sufficient private capital is in place to protect taxpayers;
  • providing stability and liquidity so that we can withstand any future financial crisis;
  • ensuring a smooth transition to a new finance system;
  • requiring transparency and standardization in a way that ensures a level playing field for all financial institutions, especially credit unions and community banks;
  • maintaining access for all qualified borrowers that can sustain homeownership and serving homeowners of the future; and
  • ensuring access to affordable rental housing.

It is particularly important to ensure that underserved borrowers and communities are not overlooked. This means housing finance reform will need to include a comprehensive strategy around access to affordable mortgage credit, as well as access to affordable rental housing.

Also important for housing access is the rigorous enforcement of our fair housing laws. Unfortunately, our fight to make progress on fair housing has become much more challenging under the Trump Administration. Let’s not forget that President Trump himself was sued by the government for serious violations of the Fair Housing Act. Under Trump’s leadership, the affirmatively furthering fair housing mandate under the Fair Housing Act was badly undercut when Secretary Carson halted implementation of the Obama administration’s affirmatively furthering fair housing rule. In fact, Secretary Carson once likened the rule to a “failed social experiment.” Secretary Carson has also reportedly proposed taking the words “free from discrimination” out of HUD’s mission statement. He also reportedly halted several fair housing investigations, and sidelined top advisors in HUD’s Office of Fair Housing Enforcement. These are unprecedented attacks on fair housing that we will not stand for.

To that end, in addition to conducting robust oversight of the Trump Administration’s activities at HUD, I will be reintroducing the Restoring Fair Housing Protections Act, my bill to reverse the harmful steps taken by Secretary Carson and the Trump Administration to undermine fair housing. I promise to continue to stand up for fair housing opportunities for all people.

Diversity and Inclusion

Another very important issue that I am going to continue to work on as Chairwoman is diversity and inclusion. As a nation, we are becoming increasingly diverse, racially and ethnically. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than half of all Americans will belong to a minority group by the year 2044. At the same time, there is a growing body of research showing a connection between the level of diversity at a company and the strength of its financial performance. Despite these facts, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found a continued trend of low representation of minorities and women in the financial services industry.

Minorities and women have particularly low representation at the senior management levels within the financial services industry. This needs to change. Diverse representation in these institutions, and particularly at the management level, is essential to ensure that all consumers have fair access to credit, capital and banking and financial services.

Now, as many of you know, I believe that it is essential to promote better workforce and supplier diversity. I am one of the proud authors of Section 1116 of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act and Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Together, these provisions direct most of the federal financial services agencies to create Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion, which we refer to as “OMWIs.” OMWIs have the important responsibility of overseeing all diversity matters in management, employment, and business activities at their agencies.  The creation of these offices was a major step forward. But, we all know that laws that promote racial, ethnic, and gender equality are only as strong as the implementation and enforcement of those laws. And congressional oversight is essential to ensure that implementation and enforcement are strong.

So I am very pleased and very proud to announce that I will be creating a Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion. The Subcommittee will be the first in its kind in Congress, dedicated to looking at diversity and inclusion issues under the Committee’s jurisdiction.

International Affairs 

Turning to the international jurisdiction of the Committee, I plan to focus on the important work of the World Bank and the regional development banks in ending global poverty. We have in the past worked in a bipartisan fashion to support the International Monetary Fund or IMF in times of crisis, at the same time that we pressed the Fund to pay more attention to the social dimension of problems when decisions about economic assistance are made. While the spirit of cooperation on issues related to global economic governance in Congress has been lacking, I am optimistic that this Congress will see renewed bipartisan attention.

Under my leadership, the Financial Services Committee will ensure that accountability and effectiveness at the international financial institutions remain strong, that broad public debate about the IMF’s and the multilateral development banks’ policies remains active, and that the international interests of poverty alleviation, growth, and economic stability continue to be advanced.

Sanctions 

Another area that I hope will be bipartisan is the issue of protecting American interests and democratic institutions from assault both internally and from abroad.  This brings me to the issue of U.S. sanctions against Russia for its hostile actions and its efforts to undermine the U.S. presidential election.

I believe the Administration’s approach to Russia sanctions has been haphazard and weak, as well as inconsistent with its approach to sanctions imposed on other countries, such as Iran.

I am very concerned about the Treasury Department’s recent actions to lift sanctions on businesses connected to Oleg Deripaska.  Deripaska is a Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin, who also has a history with Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman who has been convicted of serious financial crimes uncovered as a result of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the last presidential election.

What’s more, Deripaska has faced numerous allegations of criminal activity and was cited by the Treasury Department in April as saying he does not separate himself from the Russian state.

I believe the delisting agreement for Deripaska’s companies is too favorable to Deripaska, including by allowing him to benefit from potentially tens of millions of dollars in debt forgiveness by transferring some of his shares to a Russian bank to satisfy debts that Deripaska owes that bank.  I also don’t believe Deripaska should be allowed to retain any influence or level of control over these companies.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in both chambers and across the aisle to closely monitor all further developments on Russia sanctions, to hold the Administration accountable for its actions in this area, and to ensure that the strongest possible sanctions against Russia are implemented and remain in place.

Bipartisanship

I would like to take a few minutes to address how I will approach working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle as Chairwoman. Throughout my career, I have looked for opportunities to build consensus and work across the aisle on commonsense solutions to benefit hardworking Americans.

As Chairwoman I will continue to find areas where we can all work together. Ranking Member McHenry and I have a relationship, and just last Congress we worked together on several bills: the Fix Crowdfunding Act, to boost crowdfunding and enhance investor protections, and the Supporting America’s Innovators Act, to make it easier for more angel investors to finance startup companies and small businesses. The Supporting America’s Innovators Act became law.

Previously, we also worked together on the Promoting Transparent Standards for Corporate Insiders Act, a bill to limit the ability of corporate insiders to illegally trade on non-public information. I am very pleased to announce that Ranking Member McHenry and I are reintroducing the Promoting Transparent Standards for Corporate Insiders Act together.

So I am very hopeful that we will be able to get some good bipartisan work done in Committee. Some of the big issues we are going to try to work on a bipartisan basis include long-term reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Terrorism Risk Insurance (TRIA), and the reauthorization of the job-creating Export-Import Bank.

And so, it is a new day in Congress and for the Financial Services Committee.

As Chairwoman, I will continue to work every day to create opportunities for hardworking Americans, ensure fairness, and protect the economic wellbeing of all Americans. I will also continue to hold this Administration and its appointees accountable.

Thank you again to the Center for American Progress for having me today!

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Activism

African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG) helps support 25th annual turkey drive in East Oakland

Assembymember Mia Bonta said,”I am excited and fully in support of the City Council’s decision to prioritize an African American-led, Oakland rooted, development group to negotiate how we can reimagine the Coliseum site. This represents a promise of development without displacement, and amenities and entertainment that East Oakland once had and deserves again. This is also the kind of community-led, wealth building opportunity l will fight for at the state level, and I will continue to support initiatives like these here in the 18th Assembly District.”

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The African American Sports & Entertainment Group came out to support the 25th annual Community Giving Foundation Turkey drive at Verdese Carter Park in East Oakland.

Hosted by founder and organizer Marlon McWilson, the turkey drive that started in 1997 has now donated over 35,000 Turkey’s through McWilson’s foundation. In attendance were Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, Oakland PAL, California Assembly Member Mia Bonta (AD-18) along with husband and Attorney General for the State of California Rob Bonta. Assembly Member Bonta also congratulated the AASEG on their recent unanimous 8-0 approval to enter negotiations with the City of Oakland on an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) to purchase the city’s half interest of the coliseum land, and looks forward to working with the team.

Assembymember Mia Bonta said,”I am excited and fully in support of the City Council’s decision to prioritize an African American-led, Oakland rooted, development group to negotiate how we can reimagine the Coliseum site. This represents a promise of development without displacement, and amenities and entertainment that East Oakland once had and deserves again. This is also the kind of community-led, wealth building opportunity l will fight for at the state level, and I will continue to support initiatives like these here in the 18th Assembly District.”

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Bay Area

California Moving into Next Budget Year With a $31 Billion Surplus, Analysts Say

“Under our current law and policy approach, we estimate the general fund revenue will reach $202 billion in the budget year and result in a surplus of about $31 billion for that budget year,” said Gabriel Petek, legislative analyst of the State of California, referring to LAO’s projections for fiscal year 2022-23.

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California has the strongest economy of any state in the country with an estimated Gross State Product of $3.0 trillion. If it were a country, California would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.
California has the strongest economy of any state in the country with an estimated Gross State Product of $3.0 trillion. If it were a country, California would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

California is expected to move into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2022, with a whopping $31 billion surplus, according to estimates from the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO).

The LAO announced the anticipated surplus during a news briefing last week.

“Under our current law and policy approach, we estimate the general fund revenue will reach $202 billion in the budget year and result in a surplus of about $31 billion for that budget year,” said Gabriel Petek, legislative analyst of the State of California, referring to LAO’s projections for fiscal year 2022-23.

Petek said the large surplus reflects a number of trends. Among them are surpluses in the state current operating budget, money left in the economic reserve from the last fiscal year, higher revenues than projected for the last two years, etc.

“Revenue collections have grown rapidly in recent months, coming in over $10 billion ahead of budget act expectations so far this year. Underlying this growth is a meteoric rise in several measures of economic activity,” LAO report reads.

That windfall in the state reserve could mean a rebate for taxpayers or more money for education and other public spending.

State spending is expected to reach a cap set by California voters through a ballot measure in 1979 called the Gann Limit. When that happens, the state is compelled to return money to taxpayers by lowering taxes, sending out rebates or spending money on education.

Salena Pryor, president of the California Black Small Business Association (BSBA) says she is encouraged by the investments the state has made to aid small businesses and to improve the overall economic outlook for Californians most impacted by the pandemic.

She hopes the state will use monies from the surplus to sustain some of its initial investments.

“There is still a lot more work to do. Forty-one percent of Black small businesses have closed permanently due to COVID-19, so further investments into start-ups and restarts would greatly benefit our community,” she said.

California has the strongest economy of any state in the country with an estimated Gross State Product of $3.0 trillion. If it were a country, California would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.

“California has no peers – continues to have no peers. We are world-beating in terms of our economic growth,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking at the California Economic Summit earlier this month.

“In the last five years, no western democracy has outperformed the state of California. The United States has not… Germany, Japan, the U.K… no other western democracy has outperformed this state in our economic output of 21% GDP over the last five years.”

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Activism

New California “Strike Force” Gives Teeth to State Housing Laws

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said that California’s 17 million renters spend a significant portion of their paychecks on rent, with an estimated 700,000 Californians at risk of eviction. High home purchase costs — the median price of a single-family home in California is more than $800,000 — have led to the lowest homeownership rates since the 1940s.

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The Housing Strike Force will address the shortage and affordability crisis by enforcing state housing and development laws in the attorney general’s independent capacity and on behalf of the DOJ’s client agencies.
The Housing Strike Force will address the shortage and affordability crisis by enforcing state housing and development laws in the attorney general’s independent capacity and on behalf of the DOJ’s client agencies.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

To advance housing access, affordability and equity, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced earlier this month the creation of a Housing Strike Force.

The team, housed within the California Department of Justice (Cal DOJ) has been tasked with enforcing California housing laws that cities across the state have been evading or ignoring.

The strike force will conduct a series of roundtables across the state to educate and involve tenants and homeowners as the state puts pressure on municipalities failing to follow housing rules and falling short of housing production goals set by the state.

“California is facing a housing shortage and affordability crisis of epic proportion,” Bonta said. “Every day, millions of Californians worry about keeping a roof over their heads, and there are too many across this state who lack housing altogether.

“This is a top priority and a fight we won’t back down from. As Attorney General, I am committed to using all the tools my office has available to advance Californians’ fundamental right to housing.”

The Housing Strike Force will take “an innovative and intersectional approach” to addressing the housing crisis, focusing on tenant protections, housing availability and environmental sustainability, housing affordability, and equitable and fair housing opportunity for tenants and owners.

Bonta also launched a Housing Portal on the Cal DOJ’s web site with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants.

The strike force will enlist the expertise of attorneys from the Cal DOJ’s Land Use and Conservation Section, the Consumer Protection Section, the Civil Rights Enforcement Section, and the Environment Section’s Bureau of Environmental Justice in its enforcement efforts.

“California has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address its housing crisis, thanks to the historic $22 billion housing and homelessness investments in this year’s budget. But it’ll only work if local governments do their part to zone and permit new housing,” Governor Gavin Newsom said. “The attorney general’s emphasis on holding cities and counties accountable for fair housing, equity, and housing production is an important component to the state’s efforts to tackle the affordability crisis and create greater opportunities for all Californians to have an affordable place to call home.”

According to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the level of Black ownership nationally has decreased below levels achieved during the decades when housing discrimination was legal.

The 2020 census reports that there was a 29.6% gap between homeownership rates for African Americans and whites. Homeowners accounted for 44.6% of the Black population as compared to 74.2% for whites.

“Blacks have made little, if any, strides at closing the homeownership gap. Systemic discriminatory regulations and policies continue to thwart any meaningful effort at increasing Black homeownership,” Lydia Pope, NAREB’s president, said.

In California, the DOJ reports that over the last four decades, housing needs have outpaced housing production. It has caused a crisis that stretches from homelessness to unaffordable homes.

Despite significant effort, the DOJ stated that California continues to host a disproportionate share of people experiencing homelessness in the United States, with an estimated 150,000 Californians sleeping in shelters, in their cars, or on the street.

Bonta said that California’s 17 million renters spend a significant portion of their paychecks on rent, with an estimated 700,000 Californians at risk of eviction. High home purchase costs — the median price of a single-family home in California is more than $800,000 — have led to the lowest homeownership rates since the 1940s.

Due to decades of systemic racism, these challenges have continuously and disproportionately impacted communities of color. For example, Bonta said, almost half of Black households in California spend more than 30% of their income on housing, compared with only a third of White families.

In addition, less than one in five Black California households could afford to purchase the $659,380 statewide median-priced home in 2020, compared to two in five white California households that could afford to purchase the same median-priced home, the California Association Realtors (CAR) said in a February 2021 statement.

The percentage of Black home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in 2020 was 19%, compared to 38% for white households, CAR stated.

“Just as the price for a single-median home reaches a new record of more than $800,000 in California, everywhere you look, we are in a housing crisis,” Bonta said during the virtual news conference on Nov. 3.

“Among all households, one in four renters pays more than half of their income on rent.”

The Housing Strike Force will address the shortage and affordability crisis by enforcing state housing and development laws in the attorney general’s independent capacity and on behalf of the DOJ’s client agencies.

Earlier this year, Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 215, enhancing the attorney general’s concurrent role in enforcing state housing laws.

AB 215 was designed for reforms, facilitating housing development and combating the current housing crisis.

Newsom also signed Senate Bill (SB) 9 and SB 10 in September, legislation designed to help increase the supply of affordable housing and speed up the production of multi-family housing units statewide.

Authored by Senate President Pro Tem Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), SB 9 allows a homeowner to subdivide an existing single-family residential lot to create a duplex, triplex, or fourplex.

In response to SB 9, homeowner groups have formed across the state to oppose it. The groups are citing challenges they anticipate the law will bring to their communities, from garbage collection to increased risk of fires.

Livable California, a San Francisco-based non-profit that focuses on housing, is one of the groups that opposes the new laws.

“Senate Bill 9 ends single-family zoning to allow four homes where one now stands. It was signed by Gov. Newsom, backed by 73 of 120 legislators and praised by many media. Yet a respected pollster found 71% of California voters oppose SB 9,” the Livable California website reads.

“It opens 1.12 million homes in severe fire zones to unmanaged density — one-sixth of single-family homes in California,” the message continues. “SB 9 could reshape, in unwanted ways, hundreds of high-risk fire zones that sprawl across California’s urban and rural areas.”

But Newsom says the laws are urgent and overdue.

“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” Newsom said in a Sept. 16 statement.

SB 10 was designed for jurisdictions that want to opt-in and up-zone urbanized areas close to transit, allowing up to 10 units per parcel without the oversight of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“Passing strong housing laws is only the first step. To tackle our severe housing shortage, those laws must be consistently and vigorously enforced,” said California State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), chair of the Senate Housing Committee. “I applaud Attorney General Bonta’s commitment to strong enforcement of California’s housing laws.”

The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send complaints or tips related to housing to housing@doj.ca.gov. Information on legal aid in your area is available at https://lawhelpca.org.

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