California Assembly Select Committee on Social Housing

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3 mins read

On Oct. 20, the California Assembly held our first hearing of the Select Committee on Social Housing. It was great to have so many people join us for the start of this critical — and long overdue — conversation to bring social housing policy that works to CA.

Here’s a quick recap of the hearing:

We began by trying to define what we mean when we use the term “social housing” in the U.S. and how the term “public housing” has been historically defined since the New Deal. Dr. Rob Wiener dove into those definitions and context — as outlined in California’s YIMBY Twitter thread.

We also had Dr. Edward Goetz join us to provide a brief history of public housing in the U.S. In order to formulate good social housing policy going forward, it’s important to reflect on the current state of public housing and how we got here.

We were then joined by one of my constituents, who goes by the street name of Slumjack. He has experienced homelessness and embodies why we do this work. Slumjack’s is an important perspective we must include because those who have experienced homelessness deserve a seat at the table.

For the second half of our hearing, we heard from three experts who shared the social housing models in other countries around the world. First, was Eduard Cabré Romans @cabreeduard from Barcelona, who shared how his city is increasing their public housing stock in a country with high homeownership.

Dr. Wolfgang Amann shared with us the Vienna model of affordable housing, which includes “limited profit housing models” — a type of housing that makes up an eye-popping 25% of the housing in Austria, compared to the just 4% of housing stock in CA that are nonmarket tenures.

Our final speaker was Talía Gonzalez Cacho who shared the history, challenges and evolution of social housing in Mexico. Mexico constitutionally requires that large employers provide workers with housing but also has a workforce where 60% work informally without access to financing.

And last but not least, we heard from members of the public. Many of the stakeholders who we need at the table during these important housing discussions — from social housing advocates, to workers in the building and construction trades, to mom-and-pop landlords and YIMBY activists.

Thank you to all those who joined us for this first of many hearings of the Select Committee on Social Housing. Special thanks to the panelists, and to my Bay Area colleagues who joined, committee members Assemblymembers Mia Bonta and Alex Lee.

Excited to continue this conversation!

And if you happened to miss the hearing, but want to watch the recording, you can find it at this link.


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Before being elected to the California State Assembly in 2018, Buffy worked as a community organizer, an advocate for kids, and a grassroots activist with experience at the local, state and federal level. She was born in a small town in rural California and grew up in a trailer, raised by working class parents who pushed her to work hard and think big.

Buffy is proud to have been an architect of President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. She is credited with innovating Obama’s grassroots organizing model – from right here in Oakland. In addition to playing a critical role in his momentous electoral victories, Buffy served alongside him in the White House. In her leadership role at the Office of Public Engagement, Buffy brought stakeholders and advocates from across the country together to support and eventually pass the Affordable Care Act, which has provided more than 20 million Americans with health care, including 5 million here in California.

Since arriving in Sacramento, Buffy has been a tireless advocate for working families across California, using her experience as an organizer and leader on policy to fight for and pass bills defending the rights and strengthen the livelihood of all her constituents.

Buffy lives in Oakland with her husband Peter and her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Josephine, also known as JoJo.

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