California using 19 of its 92 surplus properties for affordable housing development

California using 19 of its 92 surplus properties for affordable housing development

March 24, 2022 0 By Madison Hirneisen

California officials could use available state property “more effectively” to address the lack of affordable housing, a new report released Tuesday from the California State Auditor concluded.

Tuesday’s report overviewed the result of an audit that examined the management of surplus properties that could be used to develop affordable housing.

In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that prioritized the use of excess state-owned land for affordable housing development. The order directed the Department of General Services (DGS) to survey all state-owned property to determine what land is not currently needed by the state and, with the help of the Department of Housing and Community Development, offer those properties a long-term lease for development, according to the auditor’s report.

The latest report from the state auditor found that DGS had identified 92 properties “suitable for affordable housing that it plans to offer for development,” but as of March 2022, only 19 of those properties had been offered.

In its report, auditors determined that DGS should “accelerate” its pace for offering properties for development as the state faces a shortage of affordable housing. Auditors estimated that Newsom’s executive order has the potential to impact thousands of families across the state, but at the current rate, auditors estimate it will take seven years to make the remaining properties available.

“The rapid creation of affordable housing is critical because more than 1.4 million low-income California renter households lack access to affordable housing,” Acting California State Auditor Michael Tilden said in a letter to governor and lawmakers. “The executive order has proven effective at supporting affordable housing creation – we estimate that it could ultimately provide more than 30,000 units of affordable housing.”

Auditors explained that the 2019 executive order put DGS on an aggressive deadline to complete its review of excess state property – from the middle of January through the end of April 2019. During that time, DGS reviewed over 44,000 parcels of state property and identified 92 suitable for affordable housing development.

The issue, auditors explained, is that the executive order did not lay out a specific timeline for DGS to offer the properties for affordable housing development.

DGS indicated to auditors that they lack the necessary staff to accelerate property assessment and make offers. Auditors estimate that, if DGS added just one staff member, it would reduce the amount of time it would take to offer the remaining 73 properties from seven years to under five.

Auditors also concluded that Newsom’s executive order did not outline a requirement for periodic assessments of excess state property, noting that without changes to existing statutes, “California may lose the order’s focus on affordable housing.”

As a result, auditors recommended that the State Legislature enact new laws that would require DGS to “develop criteria to evaluate state parcels for affordable housing” development by September 2022 and conduct subsequent reviews.

The auditors also recommended that DGS seek additional staffing, contact remaining state agencies to determine the viability of land parcels previously deemed “potentially viable,” and develop criteria for evaluating state parcels by September.

The auditors note that DGS agreed with the recommendations and “would implement them.”

This article was originally posted on California using 19 of its 92 surplus properties for affordable housing development