Newsom budget proposal puts billions into housing affordability, urban density

(The Center Square) – As California’s housing crisis continues, Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing billions of dollars in spending to accelerate development and promote sustainable housing.

The governor unveiled his $286.4 billion budget proposal on Monday, which includes more than $2 billion in proposed spending for affordable housing and sustainable development in urban infill areas of the state.

The proposal includes $500 million for an Infill Infrastructure Grant Program to prioritize housing development in urban areas and $300 million for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Programs, which supports housing and land use projects that would reduce pollution.

Newsom said Monday that in addition to addressing the state’s current housing crisis, the funding would increase affordable housing development in conjunction with the state’s climate goals.

“This is a focus on moving away from the Wildland Urban Interface, moving away from investments in housing that don’t focus on climate, health, integrating downtown schools, jobs parks and restaurants,” the governor said during his budget presentation Monday.

Part of the governor’s proposal aims to address urban sprawl – something housing advocates across the state continually lament. Various areas of the state contribute to sprawl by building low-density housing outside of cities, creating greater dependence on vehicle transportation to access job centers within cities.

Increased dependence on vehicular transportation not only contributes to the loss of agricultural land and natural resources but also increases air and water pollution, according to California Environmental Voters. It subsequently creates greater demand for parking in metropolitan areas, displacing housing opportunities.

As California continues to lay out ambitious climate goals, housing advocates emphasize that those goals go hand-in-hand with housing development in urban infill areas.

“Housing policy is climate policy, and what we do with housing will determine California’s progress on climate change,” Matthew Lewis, the director of communications for California YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard), told The Center Square. “We have to start breaking down the moats around our cities as far as allowing the people who live there to work there and really critically making sure that the infrastructure is there and that it is climate resilient.”

Another part of Newsom’s proposal aims to address the lack of affordable housing in the state by providing funding for additional development projects. The proposal includes $100 million to expand affordable housing creation and adaptive reuse development on excess state land and $500 million for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program to promote affordable housing construction.

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who has championed several housing bills in recent years, believes the governor’s proposal will help spur development across the state while also aligning the state’s climate sustainability goals.

“The governor is proposing a significant additional investment in affordable housing and housing for formerly homeless people and in programs that focus affordable housing around public transportation, and also a significant increase in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit,” Wiener told The Center Square. “I think, all told, the governor is proposing several billion dollars in new investment in housing, which is terrific, and I think it’ll help [housing development].”

The governor also unveiled about $2 billion in new spending for homelessness on Monday, which would come on top of a $12 billion investment in the previous budget.

About $1.5 billion of the new funding would address immediate housing and mental health treatment, while additional funds would address encampments. During Monday’s budget presentation, Newsom estimated that the funding would allow the state to invest in 55,000 new housing units and treatment beds.

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