Newsom Details Housing Plan, But Faces Bipartisan Pushback

Newsom hopes to spur more housing development through his state budget plan. (Anya Schultz/KQED)

Governor Gavin Newsom has released details of his budget that aims to address California's housing crisis, including a controversial plan to push cities to plan and approve more units.

The governor's idea to link the road maintenance dollars that cities get from the state to the progress they are making on housing development received bipartisan pushback from state lawmakers. And in order for Newsom to even be around for the plan's implementation, he'll have to win a second term.

The proposal, originally announced in January, and outlined in a budget trailer bill on Monday, begins with the establishment of higher goals for the amount of housing that cities need to plan for.

It then proposes sending $250 million to local jurisdictions to help with that planning, and $500 million in incentive grants -- money awarded to cities making progress on their housing targets.

The governor spoke of the link between housing and transportation during the campaign, and has argued that bold action is needed to meet his lofty goal of building 3.5 million new units in the state by 2025.

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“Our state’s affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream and the foundations of our economic well-being,” said Newsom in a statement. “Families should be able to live near where they work. They shouldn’t live in constant fear of eviction or spend their whole paycheck to keep a roof overhead. That’s increasingly the case throughout California.”

Beginning in 2023, the plan directs road maintenance money to "be withheld from any jurisdiction that does not have a compliant housing element and has not zoned or entitled for its annual housing goals."

The policy's kickoff date, not announced during the original rollout of the idea, would take until 2023 -- a relative eternity in politics.

That delayed implementation did little to win over state lawmakers on Monday, when the idea took heat from both sides of the aisle.

"Taking away that particular pot of money is probably a very unwise thing to do in the sense that it would defer your road maintenance," Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, told KQED.

Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay, chair of the Assembly Transportation committee agreed that no new conditions should be placed on the road maintenance money -- which was raised by an increase in the state gas tax.

"Many of the same people who are hardest hit by the housing crisis depend on local roads and highways for their livelihoods," said Frazier in a statement. "It is not fair, or in good faith, to deny them the benefits of [gas tax money] after they have paid for it, based on local government decisions they have no control over."

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron also denounced the plan, saying it "is not fair and it’s not going to solve the problem."

Newsom must now work with lawmakers to negotiate a budget deal ahead of a mid-June deadline.

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