Labor, lawmakers make push on housing bills

The State Building and Construction Trades Council, the California Federation of Labor, and seven state lawmakers held a press conference today to urge the Legislature to pass a package of bills to help fix the state’s housing crisis.

An estimated 100 members from Building Trades councils and locals from throughout the state gathered at SBCTC headquarters before the press conference to prepare for the labor groups’ Lobby Day activities. Their turnout lent urgency to the importance of the housing bills that were the subject of the press conference.

“Today at the Building Trades headquarters in Sacramento, we had a meeting of elected officials and unions from all over the state who are here to go and lobby our leaders in Sacramento on the issues that affect working people,” SBCTC President Robbie Hunter said afterwards. “And they are low wages, an absolute chronic shortage of affordable housing, and they are the fact that in the construction industry general contractors hire subcontractors knowing that they’re going to cheat their workers.

“These are the issues for working people, not for the tech giants and the industries of the nation. This is for working people, and we are the plankton that the whales live on. If we can’t live, we don’t buy washing machines and we can’t afford to buy cars, and the economy collapses. They need to remember that working people need to have a wage and need to have housing and need to have medical coverage.”

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said, “Rent is too high. Mortgages are too expensive. Workers aren’t able to afford to live in the communities they serve. The good news is that there are solutions to this crisis on the table. The package of housing bills we’re highlighting today will ease the burden on families statewide. Not only will it build homes, it will build communities through good jobs. Jobs that make our economy stronger.”

Hunter and Pulaski were joined at the press conference by state Senators Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco), and Richard Roth (D-Riverside), and Assembly members Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles).

The bills:

SB 2 (Atkins) would raise hundreds of millions of dollars annually for affordable housing in real estate transaction fees, with the money earmarked for new affordable housing. SB 3 (Beall) would put a $3 billion bond on the June 2018 ballot for affordable housing. SB 35 (Wiener), Senate Bill 540 (Roth), and AB 73 (Chiu) would streamline construction on affordable housing projects. AB 1505 (Bloom) clarifies existing legislation as allowing local governments to adopt inclusionary zoning policies on rental units. AB 72 (Santiago) would allow for a state review of local government decisions that are inconsistent with the housing elements of their general plans.

Their bills contained measures to increase funding for affordable housing, make it easier to get it built, and to hold cities accountable if they fail to meet their affordable housing goals.

You can watch the whole press conference on the California Labor Federation’s Facebook page,