Senator Cortese’s Bill Enabling Cities to Protect Vulnerable Residents Using Tenant Preferences, Signed into Law

Today Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senator Dave Cortese’s Senate Bill 649, enabling cities to use local tenant preferences to help stabilize neighborhoods and prevent people from being uprooted from their homes and families. With communities suffering the impacts of the housing crisis, this bill will help cities prioritize efficient use of scarce affordable housing resources to protect vulnerable residents at risk of displacement. SB 649 is sponsored by the City of San Jose, the Housing Action Coalition, and SOMOS Mayfair.

“Nobody deserves to be forced out of their community because they can’t find affordable housing, especially during a time when families are already facing extreme financial hardship due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Dave Cortese. “SB 649 will play a vital role in bolstering the state’s efforts to protect our most vulnerable residents from displacement and keep vibrant communities intact.”

COVID-19 has amplified the displacement pressures experienced by California’s most vulnerable populations. This has caused lower-income residents, who are disproportionately people of color in many California communities, physical and mental health problems. Studies show displaced low-income individuals have increased commutes, move to areas with fewer economic opportunities, and increase discretionary spending on non-housing costs such as food, daycare, clothes and medications.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo says,” “Ensuring families at risk of displacement, particularly those in East San Jose, can have priority in affordable housing in their community is critically important to our city. Senator Cortese effectively championed this issue via SB 649, the Governor has signed it into law, and we’re grateful to both for their leadership. San Jose is a proud co-sponsor of this bill, and we are especially appreciative of the tireless advocacy of our partners SOMOS Mayfair and Housing Action Coalition, and many other supporters and city staff, who got this legislation across the finish line.”

Tenant preferences are a critical tool many cities have used to reduce displacement by allowing apartment owners to set aside a percentage of low-income units for people who are most in need of affordable and stable housing. SB 649 would allow affordable housing developments that use local tenant preferences to receive state housing funds, enabling cities to combat displacement and mitigate the harms caused by displacement through the use of this successfully proven tool.

SOMOS Mayfair says, "Over the past several years we, alongside our Vecinos Activos organizing team, have worked with the City of San José’s Housing Department, local CBO’s, and thousands of San Jose residents to develop strategies to slow the displacement of families from our community. While building more affordable housing continues to be an important strategy to ensure that folks have access to housing, without a tenant preference policy in place, our most impacted folks continue to be denied said access to housing in their own neighborhoods. With a Local Tenant Preference policy in place, potentially hundreds of East San José families could have access to stable, healthy, dignified housing in the community where they already live. Ensuring they and their children remain connected to their jobs, schools, neighbors, community and family they call home."

Corey Smith, Executive Director of the Housing Action Coalition says, “The Housing Action Coalition is proud to have co-sponsored SB 649 and gratified to see it signed into law today. Providing cities with the ability to implement tenant preferences legislation will help ensure residents can continue to live in their communities as much-needed new housing is being created.”