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‘Housing crisis’ tops state’s legislative agenda this year

Rents are too high. Home prices are out of reach. Decent listings and rentals are hard to find. Homeless encampments are growing. And many residents are cutting back on food, clothing and medical care to keep a roof over their heads.

Now, after years of inaction, Sacramento may be on the verge of doing something about the state’s “housing crisis.”

More than 130 housing bills surfaced this year as of the last count, many of them aimed at addressing the state’s housing shortage, lack of affordable housing and protecting those at risk of losing their homes.

Since some bills have been abandoned or delayed, there isn’t an exact count yet. But one policy advocate said he’s tracking 89 bills, well above the typical 20 to 40 housing bills introduced each year.

High housing costs, a drastic undersupply of homes to buy or rent and the failure of cities and counties to adequately plan for growth is fueling this torrent of new statutes, policy advocates say.

“It has reached the point where it’s hard to ignore,” said Anya Lawler, policy advocate for the Los Angeles-based Western Center on Law and Poverty. “The crisis is affecting people at higher and higher levels.”

Lawler cited a Bay Area report that the commuter rail service in Marin and Sonoma counties had difficulty hiring workers because of high housing and living costs in those posh communities.

“It’s reached a point where members (of the Legislature) are getting inundated with calls,” Lawler said. “  … It’s craziness that’s showing the gaps between housing costs and incomes.”

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