California’s top housing officials share their vision for affordability and accountability – CalMatters

California, explained
In summary
In the new episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.” CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon interview the heads of California’s top three housing agencies under the Newsom administration.
Please subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsSoundcloud and Stitcher.
What is California doing about its sky-high housing prices? Just ask the state’s housing chiefs.
In this special edition of the California Housing Crisis Podcast, The Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon and CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias interview Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency; Gustavo Velasquez, director of the California Department of Housing & Community Development; and Tiena Johnson Hall, executive director of California’s Housing Finance Agency.
Keep tabs on the latest California policy and politics news

By clicking subscribe, you agree to share your email address with CalMatters to receive marketing, updates, and other emails from the site owner. Use the unsubscribe link in those emails to opt out at any time.

They each weighed in on the most controversial issues dominating the California housing crisis debate — including rent control, Proposition 13, and building market rate homes in low-income neighborhoods — and provided some insights into what their agencies are working on to address housing affordability.
Castro Ramírez, who oversees housing and various other state departments, commended the predictability afforded by California’s capped property taxes — a controversial measure that has been blamed for many of the state’s housing woes — in stark contrast to those in Texas, where she was previously head of the San Antonio Housing Commission.
“The price of homes may be lower than the price in California, much lower; the property taxes that one pays (in Texas) and the increase in that tax year over year over year, makes it difficult to project and to anticipate how much of your income you’re going to be spending,” she said.
Johnson Hall, whose agency provides financing and loans to low-income renters and homebuyers, described a new program that will provide grants to low-income households looking to build accessory dwelling units in their backyards. She said her experience living in public housing as a single mother right out of college shapes and informs all of her work.
“I look at (housing) still from the lens of a 26-year-old woman who but for affordable housing would have been homeless,” she said. “It changed not only my life, but it changed my children’s life as well. I lead with that passion.”
We rely on your generous support to cover the stories that matter most to you. If you find our work valuable in these difficult times, please support our journalism.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Velasquez, whose agency finances affordable housing and assesses local housing building production, called rent control “one of those important anti-displacement tools that are in the toolbox,” and hailed the rent control in the District of Columbia as “this golden kind of model for rent control and it has worked organizing tenants and ensuring that they utilize these measures.”
Velasquez’s agency just tripled the number of policy staff and attorneys to ensure local jurisdictions plan for and build enough housing to meet the state’s regional needs through a new Housing Accountability Unit. The department is investigating the rejection last week by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors of a 495-unit apartment complex proposed for a parking lot.  
“There are jurisdictions that will be unwilling. We know that,” he said. “But we have now, thanks to the governor and the state Legislature, additional resources to have more capacity to track this work, to monitor this work, and if need be, take enforcement actions as required by state law. So persistence is the key here.”
In the new episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.” CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon break down California’s increased enforcement of housing production goals. They are joined by Victoria Fierce, whose organization sues cities that aren’t producing enough housing.
Fresh from beating back a recall, the governor signed a package of bills to address the California housing crisis. But what do these new laws mean for housing affordability in a state where median home prices have already shot past $800,000?

{{#message}}{{{message}}}{{/message}}{{^message}}Your submission failed. The server responded with {{status_text}} (code {{status_code}}). Please contact the developer of this form processor to improve this message. Learn More{{/message}}
{{#message}}{{{message}}}{{/message}}{{^message}}It appears your submission was successful. Even though the server responded OK, it is possible the submission was not processed. Please contact the developer of this form processor to improve this message. Learn More{{/message}}
We want to hear from you
Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions: [email protected]
Manuela is the housing reporter for CalMatters. Her stories focus on the political dynamics and economic and racial inequities that have contributed to the housing crisis in California and its potential…