Bridging the gap between climate and housing justice – Marin Independent Journal


California is grappling with two major crises: homelessness and extreme weather events, including drought and wildfires. To address these interrelated crises, new climate policies must prioritize housing justice as a moral and societal imperative.

Thoughtful policies and increased funding can close the gap between environmental policies and affordable housing, and counter the inequalities inflicted on people of color by historic racism in the housing planning and financing systems in the United States.

The 2021 state budget and the new climate resilience budget update are a first step in addressing these gaps. Yet, it will take more for heads of state to be truly stewards of a just path to climate resilience.

California lacks 1.2 million affordable rental units within the reach of low-income families, as the Home 2030 Roadmap indicates. The pandemic and climate crises have further exacerbated the need for sustainable and affordable housing with the end of the years. moratoriums on evictions. Despite the best efforts of state leaders, California now faces the largest homeless population, with the number of homeless Californians increasing by 54% in the past five years.

A disproportionate number of homeless people, as well as those who qualify for affordable housing, are Californians of color. According to the California Housing Partnership’s Housing Needs Dashboard, renters of color face the highest rates of housing cost burden. Nearly two-thirds of black renter households are burdened with costs, the highest in the state, followed by 58% of Métis renter households and 55% of Latino renter households.

Housing production and preservation therefore remains essential to climate equity, and financing the electrification of new and existing affordable multi-family housing is a crucial and equitable resilience strategy. Improving energy efficiency and electrifying buildings are both proven home preservation strategies that deliver critical health and resiliency benefits to residents of affordable housing, facing energy burdens and increasing rental.

The state’s new Senate Bill 170 will provide $ 15 million for a low-income weatherization program to serve low-income residents living in CalEnviroScreen’s “disadvantaged communities”. This new budget allocation will help bring the benefits of weatherization, energy efficiency and electrification to nearly 3,750 units of the 17,000 affordable multi-family housing units currently on the program’s waiting list and will help defray the additional costs of electrification. While this funding will help reduce the waiting list, more is needed to end it.

Through Assembly Bill 128, the budget also committed $ 75 million for an initiative to build a two-year low-emissions development program. Currently, the program finances new construction of social housing. However, this allowance also extends the program to market-priced housing. This funding is essential to help affordable housing providers electrify their new developments and ensure that the transition away from fossil fuels is not another unfair burden on low-income renters.

It’s time for low-income housing tax credit and tax-exempt bond programs to encourage the transition to fully electric homes and remove the penalties that apps face when it comes to competitiveness when it comes to being competitive. they benefit from incentives for electrification.

Beyond the benefits of climate change, several studies have highlighted the health benefits of replacing residential gas appliances where children living in homes with gas stoves have a higher risk of asthma. With gas prices set to rise in the coming years, hospitals and public health agencies should consider allocating funds to electrification as a preventative medicine that alleviates the economic burden and pollution of the indoor air of families.

The current budget is making positive progress in facilitating the electrification of affordable housing. However, a commitment to stable 10-year funding is needed to ensure that our state’s efforts on housing affordability, climate goals and decarbonization policies can all work together during this time of transformation.

Srinidhi Sampath Kumar is the Sustainable Housing Policy and Program Manager for the California Housing Partnership.

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