CEJA is pleased to announce a new policy initiative in response to the housing and environmental crises in our state. In conversation with our partners, allies and the community we are building a platform to provide safe, healthy and affordable housing for all.
Download the Executive Summary or read below.
Historic and present day discrimination in land use and housing policies have led to a statewide housing crisis that disproportionately impacts low-income communities that are predominantly Black, Indigenous, and people of color. The same forces that drive present day housing instability in these communities also expose them to higher concentrations of toxic and polluting land uses, which result in health impacts and perpetuate socioeconomic inequities.
These inequities are worsened by the misleading narrative that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a major barrier to developing housing in California. This narrative, along with policies that weaken CEQA, present a false choice between having a home and being able to live in a healthy environment. In order to solve the housing crisis, the public and lawmakers must remove the real barriers to housing. Lawmakers must also prioritize policy solutions that directly address the needs of vulnerable frontline communities in order to create healthy and affordable housing while ensuring equitable access to a high quality of life for all Californians.
The following policy platform lays out a comprehensive vision of solutions to the housing crisis that center environmental justice (EJ) and housing justice.
Ensure Safe and Healthy Housing
Require all housing to be affordable, safe, sanitary, and in good condition. Ensure landlords maintain safe and habitable units; coordinate plans for housing with local health departments and renter and/or tenant protection boards; integrate EJ and housing justice values into long-range plans; and require code inspection agencies to provide timely and adequate responses to complaints without displacing tenants.
Promote healthy land use compatibility and ensure housing is not sited on or near toxic or polluted land. Close down harmful land uses or locate them away from housing; require protective setbacks and buffers between homes and polluting facilities; prohibit CEQA streamlining; engage in a robust environmental review process for housing on or near potentially toxic sites; and ensure successful site clean up and enforcement.
Promote a Comprehensive and Resilient Approach to Development
Promote the biological and cultural diversity of communities and prevent sprawl. Support solutions for bioregional governance that promote harmony between housing/human communities and local ecosystems; provide accessible public transportation and active transportation networks between housing and the places where people need to go; develop low-impact, infill housing within existing communities; establish sustainable growth strategies and restrictions on development coupled with strong anti-displacement policies; and consult with local indigenous communities to ensure that proposed housing and development will respect their rights and cultural practices.
Create climate-resilient housing. Design housing to be resilient in the face of climate-related disasters to keep residents safe, dry, and protected from extreme temperatures and weather; fund disaster-resilient retrofit programs; and provide housing electrification and solarization incentives targeted to low-income communities and communities of color.
Invest in resilient community infrastructure and services for under-resourced communities. Direct infrastructure investments (such as clean drinking water and sanitation systems, energy-efficient heating and cooling, and access to parks, etc.) to low-income communities and communities of color while guarding against gentrification and displacement; establish community resilience centers; and prioritize inclusive social infrastructure and emergency response systems for communities most vulnerable to climate impacts.
Oppose partial “green” solutions and other false solutions that do not benefit neighborhoods. Require CEQA review for housing and mixed-use projects to identify possible environmental impacts and harms to health; prohibit the use of carbon offsets and LEED certification in exchange for bypassing environmental review; avoid including weak environmental/climate policies or economic development incentives in housing policies, which fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or serve low-income residents and people of color.
Protect Vulnerable Tenants and Communities
Create robust anti-displacement requirements. Strengthen statewide rent stabilization and just cause provisions and eliminate restrictions on local rent control; pair initiatives to densify neighborhoods with strong inclusionary and anti-displacement policies; create anti-displacement zones; allow cities and counties to create stronger local anti-displacement policies; deny incentives to developers that demolish or remove rent-controlled units for low-income households; require housing construction projects to offer current tenants subsidized rent during the construction phase; engage communities in the creation gentrification risk maps; ensure community investments do not lead to displacement; and require new development to include substantial on-site affordable housing and offer tenants the right to return without rent increases.
Ensure strong tenant protections and services. Provide housing rights education and ongoing eviction prevention programs; protect tenants from predatory and illegal landlord behavior; codify a right to counsel in court for renters facing eviction; provide tenants with adequate time to respond to eviction notices; and translate housing notices and documents into locally spoken languages.
Mandate accountability and disclosure for predatory landlords. Increase oversight and transparency over property-owning corporations, increase transparency in political spending by real estate lobbying groups and corporate landlords; create a rent registry to hold landlords accountable.
Support lasting solutions to combat the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Extend eviction moratoriums; forgive rent and utility debt; prevent unpaid rent from creating future credit barriers for housing; prioritize mom-and-pop and nonprofit landlords for financial assistance to keep properties out of the speculative market; and pass proactive policies to ensure tenants can stay in their homes when future disasters strike.
Decriminalize houselessness. Eliminate harmful crime-free nuisance ordinances; end encampment sweeps that create further instability and safety risks for unhoused individuals; implement a “housing first” approach; and permanently fund supportive housing and services.
Advance Just and Equitable Housing Development
Directly address the legacies of segregation and discriminatory practices. Increase affordable housing in communities that have remained exclusionary; avoid upzoning in low-income neighborhoods to avoid exacerbating speculation pressures; require cities to conduct community-led racial equity analyses to inform all planning and housing decisions; hold local governments accountable for discriminatory policies that limit housing options for low-income residents and people of color; create state- and local-level programs to provide reparations for communities that have experienced historic, systemic loss of land and property; and enforce the state’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) mandate.
Prioritize housing that is affordable for low-, very low- and extremely low-income households. Require new developments to contain substantial inclusionary units for low-income (including very and extremely low-income) households; remove barriers to affordable housing for undocumented and formerly-incarcerated individuals; create local definitions of low-income thresholds to design housing for different income levels; and designate land and units to be reserved for the creation of democratically-controlled affordable social housing.
Preserve affordable and rent-stabilized housing. Guarantee no net loss of affordable units; establish inclusionary housing programs that require units to remain permanently affordable; protect vulnerable homeowners from predatory lenders and home flippers; protect naturally-occurring affordable housing from speculation; and establish a right of first offer when rental developments are sold.
Increase budgets and sources of funding for affordable housing. Increase state financial assistance to build affordable housing, especially for very low- and extremely low-income households; pass policies to direct funding to local and regional housing trust funds that community-based organizations can access; fund community-led planning efforts; and allow local governments to purchase property for the development of community-owned affordable housing such as social housing.
Harness public land for public benefit. Build affordable housing on unused or underutilized public land; ensure that local jurisdictions comply with the strengthened Surplus Land Act to identify underutilized sites; and support nonprofit developers and communities in purchasing surplus land for permanently affordable housing.
Decommodify housing and cultivate alternative ownership models. Remove housing units from the speculative market; fund social housing models, community land trusts, cooperative housing, and nonprofit community-run housing; establish Tenant/Community Opportunities to Purchase (TOPA/COPA) policies to limit speculation and create stability for low-income households; and protect low-income homeowners from predatory lending and displacement.
Increase Equity and Accountability in Land Use and Housing Decisions
Embed equity and center community voices in decision-making. Proactively engage frontline residents in democratic and inclusive decision-making; fund community-driven planning efforts, collaborate with community-serving organizations to co-lead inclusive planning processes; require developers to inform local residents of new projects and ensure equitable access to project notices and meetings; and oppose policies that shorten public comment periods.
Guarantee equitable access to a fair judicial process. Oppose efforts that restrict the ability of vulnerable EJ communities to defend themselves against harmful projects; oppose reductions to the judicial timeline for CEQA lawsuits; and appoint more CEQA judges.