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'Do better': Newsom pauses $1B in homelessness spending

California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli, Pool / Associated Press
California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday he will delay $1 billion in funding to local governments because he says they are not being aggressive enough to curb homelessness in their communities.

California's 58 counties, 13 largest cities and groups of public and private service providers were in line to get the money from the state if they submitted plans showing how they would reduce the homeless population in their community while increasing people in permanent housing.

Thursday, Newsom said the plans that have been submitted weren't good enough. Together, Newsom said the collective plans by local governments would reduce homelessness statewide by just 2% over the next four years. Some plans even showed double-digit increases in the homeless population over that same time period, Newsom said.

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“At this pace, it would take decades to significantly curb homelessness in California — this approach is simply unacceptable,” Newsom said in a news release. "Everyone has to do better — cities, counties, and the state included. We are all in this together.”

State lawmakers committed to spending $15.3 billion over the next three years to combat homelessness, including the grant program Newsom is pausing.

Newsom said he would hold the money until after a meeting with local leaders later this month to “review the state's collective approach to homelessness and identify new strategies to better address the homelessness crisis.”

California, the most populous state with more than 39 million residents, also has the nation's largest unsheltered population with an estimated 173,346 people experiencing homelessness in 2021, according to the state's Homeless Data Integration System.

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For decades, California has mostly considered homelessness to be a local issue, with the state government handing out billions of dollars in assistance each year to local communities.

But Newsom has been more aggressive in setting and enforcing a statewide homelessness policy. In 2019, the Newsom administration sued the Southern California city of Huntington Beach, accusing local officials of ignoring the state's affordable housing requirements.

Earlier this year, the Newsom administration launched a first-of-its-kind investigation of San Francisco's housing policies aimed at figuring out why it takes officials there so long to approve housing projects. And last month, the Newsom administration and the state attorney general joined a lawsuit against the city of Anaheim alleging officials there violated state housing laws.

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