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Key to Solving Homelessness is Housing, Not Special Exemptions for Homeless

League Opposes SB 608 While Encouraging Support for the Assembly’s Housing Funding Package

April 1, 2015
The League this week announced its opposition to SB 608 (Liu), the Right to Rest Act.
While the League shares Sen. Carol Liu’s (D-La Canada Flintridge) interest in addressing homelessness in our communities, this bill undermines local enforcement authority and offers no solutions to help the homeless get back on their feet.

SB 608 would create a special set of exemptions, privileges and rights for the homeless to occupy public and private property without complying with laws that apply to all others in society. Such an approach would result in social disorder and undermine the ability of all others to access clean and non-threatening public spaces, while jeopardizing property rights and the economic viability of local businesses.
The League believes the state's efforts to help the homeless should be led by offering the funding to build affordable housing and augment services to treat related underlying issues. Instead of offering resources, SB 608 focuses on limiting local enforcement authority on public and private property.
Among its provisions, SB 608 would exempt a homeless person from being guilty of a misdemeanor if they lodge in any building, structure, vehicle or space without permission from the owner or the person responsible for that place. The bill also expands the definition of public space in such a way that a homeless person would be allowed to assert that they can live in a public building, on a beach, on the sidewalk in front of a business, in a shopping mall or on a bus for any length of time.
More solution-oriented measures that would actually help construct affordable housing, including housing for homeless individuals, are pending in the Assembly as part of a package of legislation led by the efforts of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). The Assembly’s proposal includes AB 35 (Chiu and Atkins), which would increase affordable housing tax credits by $300 million and AB 1335 (Atkins), which would provide a permanent source for affordable housing. Other pending measures promote “housing first” approaches to the homeless issue.
Take Action
The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will be hearing SB 608 on Tuesday, April 7 at 1:30 p.m. Additional information on SB 608, as well as the League’s oppose letter, can be found on the League’s website. City officials can also use the League’s Take Action Center to send in an oppose letter on SB 608.The League encourages cities to send the committee a letter communicating opposition to this bill.
Cities are also encouraged to send support letters on AB 35 and AB 1335 to the authors. AB 35 is set for hearing in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 15 at 9 a.m. AB 1335 has also been referred to the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, and is planned to be heard on April 29. Additional information on AB 35, along with the League’s support letter and a sample support letter are available online. Additional information on AB 1335, along with the League’s support letter and a sample support letter are available online.

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