Last week our housing committee met to discuss our advocacy priorities for 2018. We also were joined by State Senator Scott Wiener who gave us a rundown of the housing package that passed in the last legislative cycle and previewed some work he thinks is important to shore up — and advance — that progress in 2018.
Earlier this year we published our housing platform which serves as a guideline for all of our work on housing. Now it’s time to get more specific, and identify concrete policy change that we want to work for. At our meeting last week, we decided to prioritize four efforts:
- “Ban the box” on housing applications: Many people have heard of efforts to “ban the box” on job applications — that is, ban employers from asking formerly incarcerated people if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony on a job application. Studies show that when employers don’t filter for criminal record on the first point of entry (the application) more formerly incarcerated people land in jobs. There is a similar movement afoot for housing applications. Richmond and San Francisco have passed limited restrictions on asking about criminal record on housing applications. We will work with the Our Beloved Communities Action Network to take those efforts further across the region.
- Universal right to civil counsel: As we learned in our first book club book, Evicted, there is a steep imbalance between landlords and tenants when it comes to eviction proceedings. As many as 90% of tenants go without legal representation and as many as 90% of landlords have lawyers. Studies show that when tenants have legal representation in these civil proceedings, they are more likely to stay in their homes (and avoid displacement or homelessness). Legislation has been introduced in San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors that we will support, and we will explore what it would take to expand these policies across the region.
- Advocating for density near transit stations: The need to create housing density near transit stations rose to the top of our priority lists because of the benefits it’ll have not just for the economy but for the environment. Legislation hasn’t been introduced on this topic yet, but we expect to see movement on it at the state level this year and hope to support bills that create accountability for local governments and ensure that new developments will include significant affordable housing.
- Passing Prop 13 reform: We were *extremely* excited to see that language for a 2018 statewide ballot initiative to reform Prop 13 had been submitted last week. The proposed initiative would remove Prop 13 protections (which peg property taxes to the price of property when it was purchased) from commercial and industrial properties. For anyone who has attended a TechEquity event, you know Prop 13 is at the root of California’s housing crisis. Reforming the law would generate $11b in new tax revenue for the state, much of which would go to local governments to support social service programs including housing. It also could fix some unintended consequences that incentivize local government not to zone for housing. We’re looking forward to educating our member base about this issue and doing some other advocacy work to advance this measure.
We’ll also keep our eye on various rent control reform efforts and continue to assess whether there is anything useful we can do on that topic. And of course 2018 is an election year. We’ll be doing some work to make sure tech workers are registered to vote, are turning out and are educated about what’s on their ballot. Stay tuned for more details on that work soon.
If you work in tech and want to join us in advancing this agenda, join us today.