News

While the most vulnerable marginalized communities are suffering disproportionately from the Covid-19 pandemic, social change activists, The Two Hundred, are intensifying their efforts to mitigate the state’s growing racial wealth gap through homeownership. Jennifer Hernandez, the lead attorney for The Two Hundred and a partner at Holland & Knight LLP, has filed for a temporary injunction against the Governor Gavin Newsom administration, in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of San Bernardino (Case No.: CIV-DS-1938432) to halt the prohibitive Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) regulation. VMT regulation, created before the pandemic, and slated to pass on July 1, 2020, continues to bolster the discriminatory California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a law that has been dangerously used as a tool to deny people of color access to homes in their communities. Led by cofounder, Robert J. Apodaca, The Two Hundred, is a statewide organization of community leaders, opinion makers and minority advocates, dedicated to securing homeownership for communities of color.

VMT regulation proposes to increase the cost of new housing by $40,000 to over $400,000 per home, based on making the act of driving any vehicle a negative “impact” to the environment, while incorporating estimated added mileage cost into the overall housing pricing structure.  This new fee is intended to force Californians to live in small urban apartment complexes, and ride public transit, to reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” that cause global climate change.  In essence, the farther a family has to move to afford housing, the higher their new “vehicle miles travelled” (VMT) fee will be.

“California produces less than one percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet environmental advocates would lead us to believe that making homes even more expensive is going to make a dent in climate change,” cites The Two Hundred cofounder, Robert J. Apodaca. “In addition, California’s climate regulators are providing financial incentives used mostly by wealthy coastal residents, like solar rooftops and electric cars, paid for by charging the rest of the state among the highest gasoline and electricity prices in the country.  The ongoing practice of redlining in real estate is alive and well, and it just has a new face. Under the pretense of ‘saving the environment’, regulators are putting home ownership further out of reach of Californians, particularly Californians of color!”

Attorney Jennifer Hernandez is extremely concerned about the harm that VMT regulation will bring to communities of color. She notes, “With VMT regulation, California’s most notoriously abused environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), converts what is already a racially-discriminatory anti-housing law into an even more potent weapon to deprive minority families of homes they can afford.  California’s most vulnerable communities are being hit hard, first the pandemic and now by nationwide civil unrest. How will we ever recover economically if laws and legislation do not favor immediate needs?  It is a travesty of justice!”

This preliminary injunction comes on the heels of The Two Hundred working to defeat another bill, the SB 950. Authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, the SB  950 seeks to strengthen the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and will inhibit access to affordable homeownership in California. The Two Hundred is seeking to delay VMT regulation, as recommended by Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, for two years so that the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 and the impending recession have subsided enough to safely pursue a sensible path forward that benefits citizens, businesses and workers.  Their effort was first initiated in December 2019 with the filing of a groundbreaking civil rights lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board.  Senator Anna Caballero was also recently joined by a cadre of legislators who support The Two Hundred’s effort and sent an urgent letter of VMT delay request to Governor Gavin Newsom.

As the cofounder of The Two Hundred, Robert J. Apodaca has a lengthy professional and civic career that spans the private and non-profit sectors. He has served low-income communities in housing, education, employment training, community philanthropy and public policy for five decades. He is the founder of ZeZen Advisors, which offers business development services in the real estate development and architectural sectors. He also founded ZeZen Alliance, a firm specializing in public and government affairs. He currently serves on the Jobs and Housing Coalition Board of Directors, The Greenlining Institute Board of Directors, California Community Builders Board of Directors and the Casita Coalition, where is he co-founder and treasurer.

With “shelter in place” and “social distancing” critical pillars of California’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, affordable housing has become a forefront concern now more than ever.  The Two Hundred remains firmly committed to campaigning on behalf of communities of color for the American Dream of homeownership made accessible for all.

Yesterday, California Air Resources Board (CARB) President Mary Nichols posted an insensitive and tone-deaf Tweet, taking advantage of the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd to push her environmental agenda. This Tweet enraged many, for good reason, as it shows that she does not really understand the needs of communities of color. 

While Black Lives Matter is a movement primarily about police brutality and that is the focus of their cause right now, we wanted to take the opportunity to address Mary Nichol’s own statement, that those who do climate and environmental policy “can and must do more.” 

Ironically, many of the policies that Mary Nichols and CARB have promoted in the past few years will negatively affect BIPOC families the most. CARBs new scoping plan for CEQA’s expansion would multiply the negative effects of California’s housing crisis on families and communities of color. The plan promotes racial discrimination in housing and violates fair housing laws. It is a civil rights violation. The additional cost of $40,000 to each new home through the implementation of these new requirements would force families who need more affordable housing to live in areas further from job centers. The increase in long commutes for people of color who cannot afford to live near where they work actually would increase air pollution, undermining CARB’s goal of decreasing greenhouse gases. 

California only contributes 1% of greenhouse gases worldwide. CARB’s scoping plan would only decrease this amount by 1% (so, 1% of the 1% contributed). Last year, California’s grass and forest fires created nearly five times more air pollution than this goal would try to reduce. The new costs associated with this scoping plan would drastically decrease any possibility we have in fixing California’s housing crisis. As this disproportionately attacks low and moderate income families, therefore endangering the economic future of the state, we ask you to consider if the goals of your new scoping plan are worth it. 

This scoping plan makes it easier to file CEQA lawsuits which reduce the overall supply of housing and drive up costs, forcing families to live outside of city centers and then would charge them a per mile fee for driving more. The plan disproportionately places the cost of environmental protection on families that are already struggling to afford California’s already astronomically high cost of living. 

We urge Mary Nichols and CARB to reconsider the scoping plan, and join in the efforts to more fairly distribute the cost and benefits of environmental protection. To help, email helpline@arb.ca.gov  or call (800) 242-4450 to voice your complaints and make CARB and Mary Nichols DO BETTER. You can also Retweet, Like, or comment on our Twitter thread on this topic:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — In May 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has introduced a bill that will prove detrimental to affordable homeownership in the state of California. SB 950, authored by Senator Jackson, will strengthen the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a law that has been dangerously used as a tool to deny people of color access to homes in their communities. The Two Hundred, an assembly of veterans of the civil rights and social justice movements, headed by vice-chair, political activist John Gamboa, has tirelessly worked for years to mitigate the growing racial wealth gap in California.  To oppose the bill, they have taken their campaigning to the people by launching a Change.org petition.  The petition, “Help Make Homeownership Possible Again – Stop Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson from Passing SB950,” has already garnered hundreds of support signatures.

The Two Hundred has documented and exposed how a group of predominately white activists have been able to effectively wield CEQA to halt home building in selected neighborhoods. By citing environmental concerns, these activists have systematically filed frivolous lawsuits that have effectively shut down construction sites throughout California.  A Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) assisted study revealed that 14,000 housing units were opposed by CEQA lawsuits in the last several years!

“The Two Hundred has been waging an uphill battle in court,” explains John Gamboa. “With the launch of our Change.org petition we are hoping to gain even more ground in our efforts to halt this ominous bill.  While Senator Jackson is busy supporting these efforts under the guise of environmental concerns, the needs of people of color are being blatantly ignored.”

The racial wealth gap divide, exacerbated by California’s housing crisis, was created, in part, by the catastrophic economic impact of the Great Recession, when millions of Americans, especially households of color, lost what little equity they owned. The Two Hundred, who also advocate for millennials and students, believe that the shortage of affordable housing; the high cost of land; the mindset of developers and state policies that favor multi-family rentals; and ever increasing rents, continue to lock out marginalized communities from the wealth-building legacy opportunities that created affluence for white, middle class families.

The Two Hundred, under the direction of Gamboa, intend to send a letter with the petition signatures to all the legislators, including Senator Jackson, after they are scheduled to return to session in May.   They are hoping to appeal to Senator Jackson to take into consideration the well-beingness of all Californians, particularly people of color and students, and not just the special interest of a selective and elite minority.

John Gamboa is a veteran community activist. His advocacy work began in 1968 when he became involved with the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements. While attending UC Berkeley, he started doing community activities around racial discrimination. He launched the Latino Issues Forum, which focused on the economic injustices that Latinx people faced, and then later The Greenlining Institute, a multi-ethnic coalition focused on combating redlining practices.

Since 2006, John has served as President of the Board of Directors of California Community Builders (CCB) alongside colleagues from Greenlining. The Two Hundred is an initiative of CCB and focuses primarily on mitigating the growing racial wealth gap through homeownership and home building in California. Prominent members include Elaine Brown, a former leader of the Black Panther Party; Joe Coto, former chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus; Herman Gallegos, the co-founder of National Council of La Raza, now known as UnidosUS, and attorney Jennifer Hernandez of the law firm Holland and Knight. The group’s activism efforts include a groundbreaking civil rights lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is dealing a devastating blow to us all, but people of color will suffer from it the most,” cites Gamboa. “An ongoing practice of blatant discrimination, namely redlining by government, financial institutions, realtors and brokers, has deeply impacted homeownership for non-white families. A decade ago, the wealth gap was such that white families were six times wealthier than minority families. Today, they’re 10 times wealthier.  We are hoping that our Change.org petition will help the people’s voices be heard!”

To learn more about The Two Hundred, log on at https://www.thetwohundred.org. Follow them on Facebook @The Two Hundred and Twitter at @The 200 Leaders.

To sign the petition, go to Change.org at “Help Make Homeownership Possible Again – Stop Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson from Passing SB950.

Check out The Two Hundred video which shows how homeownership housing is being stopped in its tracks at  https://vimeo.com/242696428.

Photo of John Gamboa:  https://imagizer.imageshack.com/v2/640x480q90/922/eoRP8X.jpg

jazzmyne Public Relations
323-380-8819
e-mail:  makeda@jazzmynepr.com
web:  www.jazzmynepr.com

Cision View original content:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/amid-covid-19-pandemic-special-interest-group-the-two-hundred-target-senator-hannah-beth-jackson-with-changeorg-petition-for-affordable-housing-legislation-301060416.html

California Community Builders (CCB) has reviewed federal and California state housing policies to see if they uphold their intent to provide affordable homeownership opportunities and rentals for all, including people of color and low-income populations. We discovered that most homeowner-related benefits and opportunities are heavily weighted towards white and higherincome people, as well as those who already own a home. Even with rental subsidies— especially in California—it is increasingly difficult for minorities, millennials, and students to find affordable housing.

Overall, these policies as they stand are sustaining and exacerbating the racial and generational wealth gap. Low-income families and people of color can receive help with rentals, but even that is insufficient in the current economic climate. Since homeownership is the primary avenue of wealth creation in the United States, current policies keep these populations at an economic disadvantage.

Since the 1930s, both federal and state programs have supported constructing and providing affordable housing for low-income families. But the federal government has shifted away from overseeing the majority of these programs, giving state and local governments more control. As a result, housing nationwide has become increasingly unaffordable and homeownership rates for low-income families and people of color have fallen behind. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 hit families of color particularly hard. It resulted in less aid aimed at increasing homeownership rates. More direct aid goes to renters to alleviate lowincome families’ cost of living. But the majority of overall federal housing-related expenditures still goes to current owners in the form of deductions for real estate tax and mortgage interest, and capital gains exclusions. In fact, owners receive over 70 percent of federal housing subsidies, despite making up less than 40 percent of those with severe housing cost burdens.

These trends are exacerbated in California. Rapid job and population growth in the state has inflated the cost of homes, and housing construction has not kept up. California lacks affordable housing, so families throughout the state struggle to make ends meet. This is especially the case for low-income families, minorities, millennials, and students.

In this report, we show how programs that may have started out to benefit all those in need have mainly benefited white, better off homeowners. We begin with a synopsis of our key findings, a comparison of the benefits of homeownership over renting, and some background on the policies in question. Next we move to a more detailed look at how homeownership rates fall across racial and income lines, both nationally and in California. We then take a look at how currently funded California programs fit into the nexus. We finish up with a discussion of what these findings mean for minorities, millennials, and students. In our conclusion, we make recommendations as to how federal and state funding allocations could be distributed in order to help alleviate the current wealth gap.

Stay Connected & Join our Email List