Voters may soon have the chance to vote on a State Constitutional Amendment to establish a right to housing in California. In basic terms, a right to housing recognizes the fundamental right of all people to have access to adequate housing, requiring that government officials take steps to uphold that right. While it sounds like everyone should be in favor, a right to housing comes with some controversy. Tenant rights advocates are strongly supportive, and more than 100 organizations have signed on in support. But while there is currently no formal opposition, local government leaders have expressed concerns that without substantially higher investment in affordable housing there are not the required resources to meet the need.

Assemblymember Haney (San Francisco) has introduced a bill, ACA 10, to amend the constitution to create a right to housing. The bill passed its first committee but is still in the Assembly awaiting approval. Constitutional Amendments are not required to follow the same process as regular legislation; however, the bill would still need to get 2/3rds approval from both houses of the Legislature before members adjourn in mid-September to make the March 2024 ballot, or alternatively in June 2024 to make the November 2024 ballot. It would then need a majority vote of the public to pass. If voters do say yes to the measure, California would become the first state in the nation to have a right to housing.

Getting to that point will not be easy, and even the author has acknowledged that the bill may not make it this year. Similar efforts were made in 2020 and 2022, but the bills did not get to the point of approval. In 2020, a bill (AB 2405) made it all the way to the Governor’s desk but was vetoed, with the veto message citing an estimated $10 billion price tag for state agencies to design and administer programs to connect people with needed housing and services. The current bill does not have a price estimate.

This latest effort comes alongside several complementary bills aimed at creating expanded financing structures and opportunities for social housing, including AB 309 (Lee), SB 555 (Wahab), and SB 440 (Skinner).

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About the Author

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Colleen Murphy is a Principal with LeSar Development Consultants’ Homelessness Solutions Team, where she designs and implements homelessness-related programs emphasizing unsheltered/encampment strategies and the intersection of homelessness and healthcare. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from James Madison University and a postgraduate diploma in Epidemiology from the University of London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Biography | Email

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