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Homes for the unhoused

Dave Chapelle was anticipating a delicious dinner at a San Francisco Indian restaurant when a homeless man started defecating outside the restaurant.

‘What the f*** happened to this place?’ the comedian said to the audience at the Masonic Auditorium on May 11.

The next day on May 12th, Governor Newsom announced the May Revision to his budget for the year 2022-23. The Governor had largely left the money allocated to the cause of homelessness unchanged. 

The Governor anticipates a shortfall in income 

The May Revision projected a $31.5 billion shortfall, up from $22.5 billion shortfall anticipated in January because of economic uncertainties.

It makes adjustments in spending to the annual budget proposed in January based on the economic and revenue outlook for the year. Expenditures and policy initiatives that were included in the governor’s proposed budget in January can be revised, supplemented, or withdrawn.

“Half the revenue that the state receives from personal income tax comes from 1 percent of the population,” the Governor said. This shows volatile dependence by the state on a small subset of tax filers. The May revision reveals a projected shortfall in personal income tax revenue of 3.2 m dollars and a shortfall of 4.3 m in corporate taxes. 

Delayed tax collection

Additional uncertainty this year will result from delayed tax collection to the tune of 42 billion because of extended tax payment deadlines for most Californians.  The winter rain storm necessitated giving most Californians more time to file into October.

 It’s expected that 28.4 billion or 23 percent of all personal income tax and 32 percent of the corporate tax will be collected late.

Stacked on top is the uncertainty with regard to financial institutions and interest rates. 

Meanwhile, support services like IHSS and Medi-Cal expect an increase of 23 million in expenditure.

The administration proposes to resolve the shortfall by shifting funds around, using unutilized funds, spending reductions, and delays or deferrals of spending. No new taxation is planned despite calls from the Senate and advocates to increase taxes on wealthy corporations and the state’s highest earners. 

The revised budget largely keeps in place funding promised in January for homelessness, education, and healthcare. It demands better implementation of allocated funds. 

The Governor demands local accountability for homelessness 

While homelessness is a complex problem with many causes, the high costs of housing are a significant factor in the state’s homelessness crisis. Rising housing costs that have exceeded growth in wages, particularly for low‑income households, put Californians at risk of housing instability and homelessness.

“Lack of affordable housing exacerbates the problem,” says Madhvi Pratt, a Bay Area resident. NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) mentality makes people reject “low-income housing” for teachers, police officers and firefighters in their neighborhoods and yet they want the services.”

AB 68 allows landlords and homeowners to add 2 more units – an ADU and a Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) – on any residential lot. This means homeowners can legally create a triplex on every single lot in the state according to the new ADU laws in California.

“City offices need to stop being so difficult with housing permits, speaking from personal experience,” says Pratt.

Zoning homes for the unhoused

Sasha Kergan, Deputy Secretary for Housing, BCSH agrees. “Cities and counties must plan and zone for housing and then permit it to be built,” she said. “If they add hurdles to building housing they run the risk of violating state housing laws. Accountability and enforcement will ensure state laws are upheld, she said. “We are very committed to removing barriers to housing,” and to holding jurisdictions accountable for planning and meeting their housing obligations.” 

The state has a housing plan that calls for local governments to plan for 2.5 million new units with one million of these affordable by 2030. 

The General Fund

The Governor’s 2022‑23 budget proposes a $2 billion one‑time General Fund over two years that is intended to address near‑term homelessness needs, while previously authorized funds for long‑term housing solutions are implemented. 

“An unprecedented 15.3 billion dollars have been invested in ending homelessness in the last years by Gov Newsom more than ever in state history,” said Ramirez

On March 16th Governor Newsom announced $1 billion in homelessness funding launching round four of the state grant program. 

The State is delivering 1,200 small homes to Los Angeles, San Diego County, San Jose, and Sacramento to provide safe, interim housing for people experiencing homelessness. Those living in encampments will be prioritized for these new units by the local governments operating the homes and providing services. 

Here’s what the budget revision does cut 

The revised budget cuts three homeownership programs: Cal home. The Dream For All and the accessory dwelling program are worth 350 million. 

The Dream For All Shared Appreciation Loan is a down payment assistance program for first-time homebuyers to be used in conjunction with the Dream For All Conventional first mortgage for a down payment and/or closing costs. It will still be launched. 

“If there is sufficient General Fund in January 2024, $350 million of these reductions will be restored,” according to the May Revise budget summary.

For California State University and the University of California students, the May Revision calls for shifting $1.1 billion in current and planned general fund dollars to UC- and CSU-issued bonds for affordable housing for those systems. 

California mayors make an ask

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and a coalition of mayors from major California cities have urged Newsom to make room for homelessness in his budget. 

In a May 11 letter to Newsom and state legislators, the mayors cited the state’s rising homeless population and asked for a total of $6 billion in Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention funding over the next three fiscal years along with $1.5 billion in Homekey funds. 

James Hacker, a deputy cabinet secretary for Newsom’s office, at a May 12 media briefing said “On the housing and homelessness side, it’s more about implementing the programs that we’ve got.”

What will it take for the city to change?

Anderson Cooper in a show titled “What Happened to San Francisco?,” investigates how the city of San Francisco, faced with homelessness, addiction, mental illness, and other issues can address them. Portland, along with other West Coast cities, also struggles with similar problems. 

“Law enforcement is needed and we need to be less tolerant of the bullshit that has destroyed our city, ” said Mayor Breed in the show.

“Homelessness is definitely a big problem in all big cities. I think it is more visible in SF,” says Mahesh Gurikar, a longtime Bay Area resident. 

“We’re not backing away at all,” Newsom said. “Fully funding, full commitment to move forward with that $15.3 billion to address the issue of encampments.”

Newsom said the $15.3 billion includes $750 million in grants to clean up homeless; camps; $3 billion for the state’s Homekey program; $2.2 billion for behavioral health; $1.5 billion for bridge housing, and $860 million for community care expansion, “which is a fancy way of saying boarding care homes.”

What’s behind homelessness in San Francisco?

“Failed policies, politics, mental illness, and drugs are behind the homelessness in SF,” says Nicki Mehra, a Bay Area resident. “The cheapest Fentanyl is available in SF. Having drugs openly is not punished. It is Liberalism gone too far.” says Mehra. “There are over 4000 people on the streets now.”

The night Chapelle made his way to the Indian restaurant in San Francisco it was the kick-off of the first of three unique night markets to revive the nightlife of San Francisco. 

“Not as many people are coming to downtown San Francisco as in years past,” says Ranjan Dey, owner of New Delhi restaurant. 

“Chapelle was going to show support for our Curry & Comedy show”, said Dey who organized the Bhangra & Beats Night Market. 

Three days later, at the Masonic Auditorium Chappelle slammed San Francisco,

‘Y’all [expletive] need a Batman!’ 

Photo by Fredrick Lee on Unsplash

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Ritu Marwah

Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author ✍️ and a recognized Bay Area leader in the field of 🏛 art and literature. A California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health...