Opinion: Passing AB 2498 Will Help Keep Vulnerable Californians Housed


Op-Ed by CalRHA’s President calling for support of rental housing subsidies for at-risk populations. -- The Times of San Diego



California is facing a housing crisis of staggering proportions. In 2023, there were over 180,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the Golden State, accounting for more than a quarter of the country’s total unhoused population. And this daunting figure doesn’t take into account the number of Californians on the edge of housing insecurity.

Though numerous factors have contributed to this crisis, one part of the solution remains clear -- we need real, concrete initiatives that put people in housing and keep them housed. Recently introduced legislation -- Assembly Bill 2498 -- might be a part of that solution.

In California’s housing market, low-income individuals and marginalized communities often bear the brunt of a flailing economy and fluctuating inflation. In a state where wages and inflation don’t keep up with market rental rates, insufficient affordable housing options have pushed many to the brink of homelessness. More than a quarter of the state population spends over half of their income on rent, and the struggle to keep family members housed ends up taking priority over other necessities, like groceries, gas and medications.

To make housing more affordable, California needs to increase its housing stock, which the Department of Housing and Community Development indicates is short by 2.5 million homes. Until we can build more and build faster, policymakers must consider rental housing assistance to those at risk.

Known as the California Housing Security Act, AB 2498 would offer a lifeline to struggling Californians. It would establish the California Housing Security Program, aimed at providing housing subsidies to eligible individuals, effectively reducing housing insecurity and ensuring that basic housing needs are met.

Eligible populations would include those who are at the highest risk of homelessness, including low-income adults, older adults, individuals with disabilities, former foster youth, and justice-impacted individuals. This bill, if passed, would mark a significant step towards creating a more equitable housing landscape in our state.

My organization, the California Rental Housing Association, is made up of rental housing providers that serve millions of Californians with safe housing. We recognize the importance of keeping Californians housed and support emergency rental assistance programs for Californians at risk of homelessness.

Most of our members are individuals and families operating like small business owners who rely on rental properties as a source of income. Many of our members are property owners who worked with their renters during the pandemic to set up payment plans or in some cases even accept reduced rents to keep their renters housed. We advocate and support solutions, like the California Housing Security Act that include safeguards that will allow us to help keep some of California’s most vulnerable in their homes. 

While we advocate for rental assistance, there must be guard rails in the legislation to ensure it works for both renters and property owners. Reasonable safeguards will prevent fraud, and options for direct payments to rental housing providers to avoid delays will prove crucial in the development and implementation of the Housing Security Program. Rental housing providers don’t just offer access to housing, they are partners in driving housing solutions and stimulating economic growth across the state. 

As we navigate the complexities of California’s housing crisis, we need to support real, tangible solutions that prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable populations. By passing AB 2498, we can take a significant stride toward keeping Californians off the streets. It’s time to act decisively and ensure that every Californian has a place to call home.

Earle Vaughan serves as president of the California Rental Housing Association.