After years of legislative stalemates on workforce issues, AB 2011 is the first bill to be endorsed by both affordable housing and labor groups
- Erin Ivie
- Director of Communications, Office of Assemblymember Buffy Wicks
SACRAMENTO — On Tuesday, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks introduced The Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act as the next legislative step in the state’s response to the housing crisis. The bill, AB 2011, will open underutilized commercial sites to affordable housing with the potential to produce millions of units, while creating strong labor protections that ensure all workers on these jobs earn high wages and receive health benefits – and every community can grow a thriving, well-paid construction workforce.
AB 2011 is co-sponsored by the California Housing Consortium, a statewide coalition of affordable housing providers, and the California Conference of Carpenters, representing more than 82,000 union carpenters across the state.
“California’s shortages of affordable housing and our growing homelessness challenges have become a humanitarian crisis, and we have to treat them with that sense of urgency,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development. “This bill combines some of the best ideas advanced in the Legislature over the last several years for promoting affordable housing development with a requirement creating ‘high road’ jobs. To effectively take on our state’s housing issues, I firmly believe we need to do both. This legislation gives us all the opportunity to work together toward our shared goal: Building more affordable housing for struggling Californians, while also growing the thriving, high-wage construction workforce every community needs.”
“California desperately needs more housing, but we can’t leave our workers behind in a rush to build,” said California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “This bill strikes the right balance. It would allow for accelerated housing production across our state, while offering high-paying jobs and health benefits for workers. I’m grateful to Assemblymember Wicks for her leadership on this important issue.”
In spite of the state’s efforts over the last several years, California’s housing crisis remains a serious challenge. The 2022 Statewide Housing Plan estimates California needs approximately 2.5 million new units of housing over the next eight years – including over one million units affordable to lower income households. According to the Housing and Community Development Department, the state will need 180,000 new units of housing each year just to keep up with existing demand, including 80,000 units affordable to lower-income households. Today, California averages less than 100,000 new units per year and has never produced more than 20,000 new affordable homes in any year.
AB 2011 would allow the state to simultaneously address its affordable housing, jobs, and climate crises by pairing new opportunities to build 100% affordable and mixed-income housing on underutilized commercial sites with labor standards that ensure all construction workers earn prevailing wages and receive health benefits.
With thousands of these underutilized commercial sites across California, this would allow production of critical new affordable housing units at scale, while preserving the density and character of existing residential neighborhoods. One recent analysis found the potential for three million units in just the Bay Area and Los Angeles County. The bill also includes new homeownership opportunities for middle-income Californians, while promoting climate-friendly affordable development on sites close to jobs and transit.
“The Legislature and Governor Newsom have demonstrated their commitment to affordable housing in recent years, but there is still much work to do to find new sites for affordable housing and accelerate production,” said Ray Pearl, Executive Director of the California Housing Consortium. “Affordable housing advocates have been looking for ways to expand access to housing for the millions of lower-income families, workers, and seniors who desperately need it, while supporting and growing the workforce that builds these units and ensuring projects can move forward as the workforce expands. AB 2011 successfully does both, and will help us provide more Californians with a safe, affordable place to call home.”
After years of legislative stalemates over housing workforce issues, AB 2011’s housing provisions and strong labor protections are the first to be endorsed by both affordable housing and labor groups. To be eligible to build housing on commercial sites currently zoned for office, retail, and parking uses, the bill requires developers to meet a range of responsible wage and training standards:
- Prevailing wage is required on all projects.
- For projects of 50 or more units, contractors must either participate in a state-approved apprenticeship program or request the dispatch of apprentices from such a program and provide health benefits for their workers. If no apprentice workers are available, the project can still move forward.
- The bill also includes new enforcement mechanisms to ensure these payroll and benefits requirements are being met.
“This bill offers a genuine, workable solution to the housing crisis. It includes good wages and a strong package of labor protections that will create tens of thousands of steady, well-paying jobs with health benefits,” said Daniel Curtin, Director of the California Conference of Carpenters. “This proposal will also level the playing field for high road contractors and increase state enforcement to ensure new labor standards are being met. Just as importantly, it lets us all get to work now, with the workers we have, while ensuring everyone on jobsites is treated fairly as we rebuild the blue-collar, middle-class construction workforce of the future. We applaud Assemblymember Wicks for tackling this difficult issue with a fair, balanced and thoughtful bill.”
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