SACRAMENTO, CA — Against the backdrop of California’s ongoing housing crisis, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D – Woodland Hills) has introduced legislation to create an online database of affordable housing listings.
The measure, Assembly Bill (AB) 1961, will speed the state’s policy efforts to improve access to affordable housing and allow low-income residents to broaden their housing search. Sponsored by Housing CA, the bill stems directly from the life experiences of people who currently live in affordable housing, many of whom have experienced great difficulty applying in person and often join upwards of 30 waitlists in their search for affordable housing.
An estimated 11 million families in the U.S. now pay more than half their income on rent, a number that has grown steadily as the supply of affordable housing shrinks. The result, according to advocates, is that some people are forced to choose between paying for rent or other necessities, such as food and medicine.
“Many families across California face significant barriers to finding affordable housing that meet their needs—it is long past time for us to have a simple, practical way to apply for affordable housing,” said Asm. Gabriel. “This bill would make it easier for Californians to access the housing they need, allowing them to apply from a computer or phone.”
By helping low-income applicants and property managers in matching tenants, screening and replying to applications, and keeping updated listings of affordable housing units, AB 1961 would make the process of finding affordable housing exponentially simpler.
Jessie Grey, a Residents United Network member from San Diego and an Air Force veteran, remembered the process of applying for affordable housing: “It was resource- and time-intensive, and also disheartening,” he said. “Veterans have already been through enough.”
“Seniors, people with disabilities, and rural Californians would not have to spend the time and energy to trek across cities to turn in applications,” said Amber-Lee Leslie, Legislative Advocate for Housing CA. “People who speak English as a second language could fill out a translated online form from home instead of missing a day of work to show up in person at an affordable housing development.”
Retired Residents United Network member, Willie Stevens of Oakland, recalls taking three buses to unfamiliar neighborhoods to find affordable senior housing, trying to calculate when a manager might be available. He was couch-surfing at the time, and whenever he changed his address, he’d have to inform each building manager where had applied. An online portal like the one AB 1961 would create would have changed the experience entirely. “One application and I’d find a home,” he said.
AB 1961 is expected to be heard in committee in the coming weeks.