AG Bonta State Talks Housing Crisis With Residents Of Modesto

California Attorney General Rob Bonta addresses community members at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in southwest Modesto on December 13, 2021.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta addresses community members at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in southwest Modesto on December 13, 2021.

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In a community talk Monday night about the statewide housing crisis, a Modesto resident said she knew people who, unable to afford anything more, rent and live in the garages of other people’s homes.

Access to housing is a human right, but it is sold as a commodity, California State Attorney General Rob Bonta told about 20 residents and activists at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in southwest of Modesto.

The event, hosted by community advocacy organization Faith in the Valley, allowed attendees to tell Bonta about their experiences with the housing crisis and make suggestions on what needs to be done to stimulate affordable housing options throughout the county.

“Everyone deserves (housing), everyone needs it and we have to do better,” Bonta said. “We have to produce probably 2 million units, 3 million units across the state to get to the point where there is enough affordable housing for everyone to live there. We need to protect our tenants, to make sure they are not evicted from their homes.

In November, Bonta launched the Housing Strike Force within the state’s Justice Department and announced a series of tenant roundtables across the state to hear about local housing issues. Her team, from the Office of Community Outreach, Response and Engagement, work statewide to help tenants and residents resolve housing issues and help them raise awareness of their rights. The office launched a housing portal for this purpose in early November.

Monday’s meeting was not part of the roundtable series.

Stanislaus County, like much of the country, has been hit by the nationwide housing shortage. Some estimate that the county alone is short of 10,000 housing units, most of which are affordable. A report released this summer showed that across the county, about 15,000 households are struggling to find affordable housing.

In both Modesto and Stanislas, housing construction is a slow process and preparing new land for construction can take years, if not decades. Meanwhile, the local housing market is only weakening after a difficult year and a half where the pandemic has sent prices skyrocketing.

Additionally, an influx of new buyers from other parts of California – often the Bay Area – looking for more affordable housing has started charging local residents who can’t afford to bid on homes in the United States. above their asking price.

These problems are worsening and contributing to the housing crisis in the county, residents in Bonta said on Monday.

Desperate straits call for desperate solutions

In some cases, the lack of quality affordable housing has led to desperate solutions.

Maria Pulido, a promotora from Modesto, told Bonta and the group in Spanish that she and her family lived with their in-laws but had been trying to buy their own house for years. Every time they search, they can’t find anything in their price range and the houses get more and more expensive.

Pulido said she had knowledge that went further; they are forced to rent a garage in neighboring houses and live there without heating or electricity. Fearing that the local authorities will find out about their living situation, they cannot defend their own name as tenants.

Many of her family and friends work in construction and often commute long hours to sites in the Bay Area, Pulido added. When they return to their families late at night, they do not have their own home to return to, although they spend all day building future homes for others.

“It’s sad to see our community, the Latino community, working hard in jobs like construction and farm work, which are really physically exhausting,” she said through a translator. “Our people are going out and building homes in areas like the Bay Area and yet we are coming home and we cannot afford to pay our rent to Stanislaus.”

Leon Callen, a minister at Christian Love Baptist Church, pointed out that the housing problem starts at the local level, with a lack of inventory and affordable options. Even without the influx of new residents, Modesto and Stanislas suffer from a housing shortage, he said, and it is up to cities to focus on building more units and providing residents with housing. that they can call their own.

“Everyone needs housing,” he says. “It builds the community. I don’t understand how cities don’t understand that housing helps create a more cohesive community where the people who own a house obviously become more protective of that area. We have to protect people.

Perfecto Muñoz, executive director of the West Modesto Community Collaborative, said the key to solving the housing crisis in Stanislas and Modesto is to get the city council and the county supervisory board to tackle the problem head-on and to give it priority in their agendas.

Bonta said he and his office are working to make sure all cities in California are doing their part to provide affordable housing and meet their housing production requirements.

“No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something,” Bonta said. “This is a shared responsibility for our state. We will make sure that everyone does their duty.

This story was produced with financial support from the Stanislaus Community Foundation, as well as the Report for America initiative of the GroundTruth Project. The Modesto Bee retains full editorial control over this work.

To help fund The Bee’s Economic Development Reporter with Report for America, visit https://bit.ly/ModestoBeeRFA

Help us cover your community through The Modesto Bee’s partnership with Report For America, with financial support from the Stanislaus Community Foundation.

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks to community members at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in southwest Modesto on December 13, 2021. Kristina Karisch [email protected]

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta and community members pose after a panel discussion at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in southwest Modesto on December 13, 2021. Kristina Karisch [email protected]

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Kristina Karisch is the business development reporter for The Modesto Bee. It covers economic recovery and development in Stanislaus County and the North San Joaquin Valley. Her position is funded through financial support from the Stanislaus Community Foundation, as well as the Report for America initiative of the GroundTruth Project. The Modesto Bee retains full editorial control over its work.

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