California’s Proposal to Make Housing a Fundamental Human Right Moves Forward
A proposed constitutional amendment to make housing a fundamental human right in California is moving forward in the Legislature.
Democratic leadership referred Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 10—introduced by Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco)—to the Assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee, where it is expected to receive its first public hearing. No date had been set for the hearing as of April 25.
“Housing is indeed a human right,” Haney wrote on Twitter April 25. “Without access to housing, everything else suffers: health, safety, educational attainment, access to food and water, addiction, and jobs.”
According to a coalition of housing activist organizations, if the constitutional amendment is passed by the Legislature and voters, it would establish a government obligation to:
- respect the right to housing by not interfering with the right
- protect the right to housing by shielding it from third-party threats
- fulfill the right to housing by enacting policies and providing state funds to ensure that all Californians have secure housing
The coalition—including the ACLU California Action, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Action National Homelessness Law Center, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty—issued a report Monday called “Recognizing the Right to Housing” (pdf).
The groups say enshrining a fundamental right to housing in the California Constitution is a necessary step to address the growing housing crisis.
Under international law, upon which the proposed amendment is structured, housing must be “adequate,” according to the report. This means ensuring the housing is permanent, affordable, safe, healthy, and accessible to grocery stores, jobs, and schools. It needs to also “respect and take into account the expression of cultural identity,” the groups said in the report.
“Guaranteeing every person the right to housing provides an important government obligation and legal tool to ensure that Californians have access to affordable and adequate housing,” the Western Center on Law and Poverty said in a statement.
More than half of the nation’s homeless live in California, while the state’s population is only 12 percent of the nation’s, according to the report.
Skyrocketing housing costs, lack of affordable housing, and stagnating wages are largely to blame, the report stated.
In 2020, the Oakland-based housing activist group Moms 4 Housing published a poll (pdf) showing 66 percent of state residents supported a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the human right to housing, which is cited in the report.
Advocates and Critics
Families and affordable housing advocates gathered at the state Capitol April 24 to show support for ACA 10 and another housing initiative, Senate Bill 567, by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), which would put restrictions on residential rent increases and prohibit landlords from evicting tenants without a specific legal justification.
ACCE representative Alicia Baltazar, a disabled single mother from Wilmington, attended Monday’s rally and said she supported ACA 10. She and her young son were homeless and living in a shelter before qualifying for Section 8 housing, a federal voucher program that helps low-income families pay for housing.
“Every day, I live in constant fear of losing Section 8 and of renter discrimination because people don’t want to rent to people who don’t have jobs,” Baltazar said. “People don’t want to rent to people who have children. People don’t want to rent to people who are our color, who are undocumented, and things like that.”
However, not everyone is sold on the idea of creating a right to housing.
The change could cost developers and local governments more money to build future housing projects, former Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer told The Epoch Times in March.
“Elected officials feel that if they vote for something, therefore it is,” Righeimer said. “There’s no such thing as affordable housing. All there is is subsidized housing. It’s really just a matter of who’s going to subsidize it. The 2-by-4s and concrete still cost money.”
A similar amendment was proposed in 2019 by then-Assemblyman Rob Bonta, now the state’s attorney general, but failed to pass.