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Sen. Toni Atkins On Passing 'Historic' Housing Bills

State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, receives congratulations from Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, after her housing measure was approved by the state Assembly on Sept. 14, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif.
Associated Press
State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, receives congratulations from Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, after her housing measure was approved by the state Assembly on Sept. 14, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif.
Sen. Toni Atkins On Passing 'Historic' Housing Bills
Sen. Toni Atkins On Passing 'Historic' Housing Bills GUEST: Senator Toni Atkins, 39th district

Before it happened no one knew for sure if they could do this. And one of the assemblies last votes legislators approved a package of housing bills. Collectively the bills will raise the needs of dollars for affordable housing and decrease regulations for developers. The state legislature tried for years to pass laws to ease the housing crisis and the vote this year has been called the story. The senator, Toni Atkins, sponsored one of these bills. She joins us now.Senator Atkins, welcome.Thank you.Why was it this year that they were able to pass bills funding affordable housing?A number of factors. The crisis has been on the front page of newspapers up and down the state. It has resonated. I do think I have a number of colleagues in both the assembly and Senate who wanted to push it this year and said we will do this. The Senate leader, Kevin D Lyons and the speaker both got an early to say how important it was. Once the Governor came on board really was -- how will we get the votes to make this happen?A lot of cities around the state point to the end of state redevelopment funds back in 2011 is the start of the real housing emergency in the state. Is SB 2 placing the funding? Or is it different?Well, it's a little bit different. I would say that the housing crisis was happening before the redevelopment money but losing the 20% which was about $1 billion per year throughout the state was critically devastating to help to make the crisis worse.I think the 250 million plus annually does replace a lot of the money -- one fourth of the money. There are different conditions and criteria for this money that allows us to get to the middle class. The missing middle, as we call it here in California. Up to 150% of the median income. There is a commitment to farmworkers. More money will be going toward farmworker housing in the state of California never.Now, your bill, SB2, needed a two thirds majority and you got it when the assemblyman cast the only Republican yes vote. One thing he said propped it is vote was the hepatitis A outbreak. Do you see the housing crisis is one of the causes of this outbreak?Well, I'm not in an expert position to claim this but I would say that we know that having housing is a factor in healthcare outcomes. We know that the outbreak is due to the inability to be able to wash your hands and have good hygiene and once that takes hold and hepatitis A is there, it can spread. So, if we had more permanent supportive housing for the homeless and mentally ill and drug and alcohol addicted it would help the situation.There was another part of the package -- SB 35 to fast-track development in areas that are falling behind in housing -- but only if they pay union wages. San Diego Union Tribune editorial board said in Sacramento it seems the most urgently needed new policies can be achieved only with payoffs to special interests, meaning, of course, the unions. What is your response?People that build housing should make decent wages so they could live in the houses they are building.You could look at it that way. Clearly, there was an impact from labor to make this happen. They were huge stakeholders -- it creates jobs. That's good for the economy. The point is well taken -- if our workers can't afford to live in the house they are building, what does that say about our values? So, you can look at it both ways. I choose to say that we should pay decent wages for the work people do.The state legislature passed a cap and trade extension. It will likely raise fuel. The housing bill as a fee to some real estate transactions. That is a lot of new costs for Californians all at once. Is it too much?Relating to the housing fee, when we looked at that -- other states have this type of transfer fee -- it applies to four categories of people -- not everyone. It doesn't apply to home sales, it applies to refinancing. When you refinance, you can save upwards of $300 a month. So, if you look at the financing of the $75 fee over 30 years, that's a pretty good return on your investment to make sure that we have enough housing for the kids and parents and ourselves moving forward.The other part of the fee is paid by the developers who supported this. They pay it on the development they do ahead of time. So, we tried to make this -- whether we are talking about the gas tax or cap and trade or the housing -- we tried to look at these fees in a way that was less impactful to the public. But, anytime you do a fee, you will have a reaction from folks. I think we tried to make sure that gas prices will rise as high as they could. And that home costs over time will go down.I read their are people with confidence -- people have confidence that Governor Brown will sign this housing package. Are you confident that the voters will approve the biggest revenue part of the housing package, which is a $4 billion bond for low income housing? Will he get the boat are supported needs a?It is possible. In California we have traditionally done a housing bond every decade, pretty much. We passed proper position CMAC and -- proposition C around 2006 and we used that money to continue to build housing. The bond money has pretty much been used up. This is why the senator from San Jose recommended a $4 billion bond. 1 billion will go for veterans housing and homeownership opportunities. We will see. It will be on the ballot in 2018. The voters have traditionally supported bonds for housing as a means to get it done. But, they will need to be a campaign waged. As we've seen up-and-down the state, a number of cities have actually -- cities and counties have put bond measures and fees on their local ballots to try to address the housing supply. I'm optimistic but I think it will take work.I've been speaking with state Senator Toni Atkins from San Diego. Thank you.

Before it happened, no one knew for sure if they could pull it off. In one of the California Assembly's last votes of the session, a package of housing bills squeaked through that will raise billions of dollars for affordable housing and decrease regulations for developers.

Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, wrote SB2, a centerpiece of that package. The bill will add a $75 fee to some real estate transactions, creating a pool of about $250 million per year for affordable housing. Atkins, who called the SB2 vote "historic," said the funding will help replace the roughly $1 billion in state redevelopment funding that Gov. Jerry Brown turned off when he ended the program in 2011.

RELATED: California Lawmakers Send Affordable Housing Fix To Governor

"The housing crisis was happening before our eyes, even with redevelopment money," Atkins said. But losing that $1 billion "was critically devastating to helping to make the crisis worse."

Atkins joined KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday with more on what housing SB2 would fund and the likelihood voters will approve a $4 billion housing bond on next year's ballot.