Mayors urge Newsom to boost housing funds, tackle homeless problem

Thirteen mayors of California’s largest cities have urged state lawmakers and Governor Gavin Newsom to provide more and permanent funding to tackle the state’s interconnected crises of affordable housing, mental health care, and homelessness. The California Big City Mayors coalition, comprised of mayors from the largest 13 cities by population, called for the allocation of $2 billion annually to the state’s Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program (HHAP) and $1.5 billion to the state’s Homekey program. The coalition’s chair, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, emphasized that while cities have made progress in creating housing, local leaders need the support of state lawmakers to address the scale of the problem.

Gloria also urged practical and flexible funding that aligns with specific and realistic goals for better outcomes. Citing the need for more resources, he stated, “Homelessness is solvable, but we need the resources to scale the projects and programs to have an impact.” San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan echoed the call for flexibility, emphasizing that a range of housing options is needed to provide safe, managed spaces for people in need. Mahan revealed his city has reduced unsheltered homelessness primarily by constructing interim emergency housing that offers a private room with a bathroom, adding that sustained permanent housing is still essential.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed highlighted the lack of predictability in the state’s efforts to support cities, as their budgets have varied significantly due to changes in the economy and funding sources. Breed stressed that making funding permanent would bring a significant element of predictability to the government’s efforts. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao expressed her personal experience of living in a car and stressed that access to safe, permanent, and dignified housing should be viewed as a basic necessity and a human right.

The mayoral coalition also voiced its support for Senate Bill 43, introduced by State Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, which aims to ensure long-term funding for more shelter beds catering to people experiencing mental health and addiction crises. The Homekey program, which allowed the coalition to create new emergency shelter beds, interim homes, and permanent homes, has benefited nearly 11 million Californians. The mayors, therefore, called for greater investment in the program to address the worsening crisis.

Overall, the mayors’ call for greater permanent funding to ameliorate homelessness, affordable housing, and mental health care demonstrates the need for more coordinated and sustained efforts at federal, state, and local levels. With more ambitious funding, expanded housing options, and better coordination, decision-makers can make significant strides in addressing the crisis.

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