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Audit finds state could do more to speed up affordable housing for state-owned property

“They're actually doing a good job identifying state-owned property, and they could do more.”

SACRAMENTO, Calif — The state auditor’s office is looking at how California is building affordable housing as a glass half full. 

In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to prioritize building affordable housing on government-owned land.

“In California, affordable housing is a significant concern,” Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden said. “There's over 1.4 million low-income renter households in California that don't have access to affordable housing.”

Tilden said of the 44,000 state-owned properties the Department of General Services looked at, 92 were identified as surplus properties and could be repurposed as affordable housing. 

“Unfortunately, to date, only 19 of those properties have actually been made available to development," Tilden said.

He believes part of the reason only 92 were identified is because of a tight deadline and a lack of communication. 

“They didn't always follow through and talk to the departments that own those properties to really figure out whether the properties were conducive to affordable housing,” Tilden said. 

He estimates the remaining 73 properties identified could provide 30,000 additional units. However, he believes it’ll take seven years to act on them. Adding just one more staff member, though, could reduce that timeframe. 

“In what I read, they're actually doing a good job identifying state-owned property,” Matt Schwartz, CEO of the California Housing Partnership, said, adding "they could do more.”

Schwartz said the state is and needs to continue to be laser-focused on the issue.

“We need to produce roughly 1.2 million more affordable homes to get to long-term stability and to be able to end homelessness in the state,” Schwartz said. “But what that's going to require is to get us from the current level of production of little over 20,000 homes a year, up to one 120,000 homes a year. It's not that the administration's initiative on identifying publicly owned lands is falling short. It's just that it's not enough.”

A spokesperson for the Department of General Services said they agree with the State Auditor’s review. They will discuss the recommendations with the Department of Finance and see if they need to hire additional staffing.

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