While California’s housing shortage, displacement and affordability crisis has persisted for decades, the pandemic has made it all the more severe in cities across the state. Now more than ever local elected officials must create and maximize every possible solution to make more housing available and affordable to residents of all income levels, and to house our most vulnerable neighbors living without homes.
While some cities like Sacramento, Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose are rising to the challenge, too many others are failing to act at all. When local governments resist meeting their housing goals and actively stifle development, it not only impacts their own city but also cumulatively exacerbates our statewide housing crisis by driving up housing costs and leaving even more residents housing insecure or living on the streets.
A confounding example of this is happening now in the City of Fairfield, where the City Council has yet to approve the Georgetown Project — 300 currently vacant and already-built homes that would provide 100% affordable housing for local residents and supportive housing for veterans.
Located next to Travis Air Force Base, these 300 town homes once served as officer housing for the base but have since sat empty for the past decade. The owner of the property has been ready, willing and able to rehabilitate these homes using union labor and at no cost to the city, Travis Air Force Base or taxpayers.
Inexplicably, instead of seizing this opportunity to help meet its housing goals, Fairfield city leaders have so far been unwilling to allow this project to move forward. This refusal comes at the same time housing prices, housing insecurity and homelessness are skyrocketing. It’s hard to see why any elected official would refuse to make 300 already-built affordable homes available for their most vulnerable constituents.
Even more puzzling is that Fairfield’s City Council recently pledged to halve the city’s homeless population of about 1,000, including about 150 veterans, by 2026. But since 2014 they have only permitted 140 out of the 1,183 low- and very low-income homes they are required to add under state law. This in a city with a substantial veteran population and where more than 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced school lunch.
This kind of foot-dragging in cities across California has worsened our state’s already-severe housing crisis and is the reason why Gov. Gavin Newsom has made enforcing affordable housing laws a top priority. It’s also why a broad coalition of local organizations and community leaders — including Housing Action Coalition, California YIMBY, Napa-Solano Building & Construction Trades Council and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California — are ardently supporting the Georgetown project.
Rarely does a city or county have the opportunity to support a project that would provide so many affordable homes to hundreds of residents so quickly. Our elected leaders should be working in collaboration with public, private and nonprofit partners to make affordable housing available to all. The City of Fairfield must stop failing to house its most vulnerable residents. Saying yes to 300 existing affordable homes would be a great first step.
Todd David serves as Executive Director of the Housing Action Coalition. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.