Sacramento, Calif.- by Robert J Hansen
A bill was introduced on Tuesday as the next legislative step in the state’s response to the housing crisis according to a press release from Assemblymember Buffy Wicks’ office.
AB 2011 would open underutilized commercial sites to affordable housing with the potential to produce millions of units, while creating strong labor protections that ensure all workers on these jobs earn high wages and receive health benefits, the press release said.
Assemblymember Wicks introduced the Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act which, in contracts with construction contractors, would ensure that certain wage and labor standards will be met, including that all construction workers shall be paid at least the general prevailing rate of wages, as specified.
“California’s shortages of affordable housing and our growing homelessness challenges have become a humanitarian crisis, and we have to treat them with that sense of urgency,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development.
Wicks said AB 2011 combines some of the best ideas advanced in the Legislature over the last several years for promoting affordable housing development with a requirement to create “high road” jobs.
“To effectively take on our state’s housing issues, I firmly believe we need to do both. This legislation gives us all the opportunity to work together toward our shared goal: Building more affordable housing for struggling Californians, while also growing the thriving, high-wage construction workforce every community needs,” said Wicks.
California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said the bill strikes the right balance.
“California desperately needs more housing, but we can’t leave our workers behind in a rush to build,” said Rendon. “It would allow for accelerated housing production across our state while offering high-paying jobs and health benefits for workers. I’m grateful to Assemblymember Wicks for her leadership on this important issue.”
The 2022 Statewide Housing Plan estimates California needs approximately 2.5 million new units of housing over the next eight years including over one million units affordable to lower-income households.
According to the Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD), the state will need 180,000 new units of housing each year just to keep up with existing demand, including 80,000 units affordable to lower-income households.
California averages less than 100,000 new units per year and has never produced more than 20,000 new affordable homes in any year.
After years of legislative stalemates over housing workforce issues, AB 2011’s housing provisions and strong labor protections are the first to be endorsed by both affordable housing and labor groups. To be eligible to build housing on commercial sites currently zoned for office, retail, and parking uses, the bill requires developers to meet a range of responsible wage and training standards:
For projects of 50 or more units, contractors must either participate in a state-approved apprenticeship program or request the dispatch of apprentices from such a program and provide health benefits for their workers. If no apprentice workers are available, the project can still move forward.
The bill also includes new enforcement mechanisms to ensure these payroll and benefits requirements are being met.
“This bill offers a genuine, workable solution to the housing crisis. It includes good wages and a strong package of labor protections that will create tens of thousands of steady, well-paying jobs with health benefits,” said Daniel Curtin, Director of the California Conference of Carpenters.
Cutting said the proposal will level the playing field for high road contractors and increase state enforcement to ensure new labor standards are being met.
“Just as importantly, it lets us all get to work now, with the workers we have, while ensuring everyone on job sites is treated fairly as we rebuild the blue-collar, middle-class construction workforce of the future. We applaud Assemblymember Wicks for tackling this difficult issue with a fair, balanced, and thoughtful bill,” said Curtis.
Read more about the legislation here.