California Governor Wants Federal Land for Free to House Homeless

Now there’s one more person who thinks something provided by the national government is “free.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, asking for the federal government to open federal property across the state for construction of more low-cost housing.  Newsom categorizes the land as surplus and wants the U.S. government to hand it over for nothing. Carson had already rejected calls from Newsom for more money to fight homelessness.

In pleading his case, Newsom pointed out that the state had already turned over its excess state-owned land to cities and counties for the purpose of building affordable housing.

Last year the governor directed officials in Sacramento to identify excess state lands for the purpose of building affordable housing units. Of 1,300 sites found potentially suitable, fewer than 100 properties ultimately met all the necessary criteria and were approved for development, Jacob Roper, spokesman for California’s Government Operations Agency, said on Wednesday.

Newsom wrote:

“You could match our commitment by similarly providing free surplus federal land to local governments across the state so they can build housing for the homeless. Emergency shelter solves sleep, and we agree this is an urgent priority. But only housing and services solve homelessness.”

A HUD tally published last month put California’s homeless population at more than 151,000, up 16 percent from the year before and the highest of any state. California is the nation’s most populous state, with some 39.6 million residents.

Earlier this month, Newsom called on state lawmakers to create a $750 million fund to provide housing and services for people on the streets. He proposed $695 million in additional spending to improve medical care and mental health treatment for the homeless.

He also ordered mobile trailers and modular tent structures set up across the state to provide temporary shelter and healthcare services to the poor.

But Newsom failed to address one of the biggest issues with housing in California, namely onerous building regulations, which is one of the reasons fewer than 10% of the state-owned sites were deemed acceptable for conversion.

California currently runs a budget surplus of more than $1 billion.  The state could use the excess tax money to buy the land from the U.S. taxpayers instead of asking for a donation to the state’s problems that are, at least in part, self-inflicted.

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