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Momentum Builds for Public Housing in California

A "white supremacist" law that blocks public housing in the state is up for repeal—again.
February 20, 2019, 2pm PST | Elana Eden
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Los Angeles 110 Freeway

California leaders hope that in 2020, voters will agree to remove a barrier to public housing construction that has been enshrined in state law for 70 years.

That barrier is Article 34 of the California Constitution, which triggers a popular vote before public housing is built—a requirement unique to California. In a feature for the Los Angeles Times, Liam Dillon details how the amendment has not only diminished California's supply of affordable housing over the decades, but also hindered desegregation efforts throughout the state; shaped policy and finance around housing development; and led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that government could legally discriminate against poor people.

State Senator Ben Allen and Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti are among the leaders now pushing to abandon Article 34—calling the rule "anachronistic" and "white supremacist," respectively. If the measure appears on the ballot, it would mark the fourth time voters have been asked to repeal the law since it was first approved in 1950.

So far, it's never come close. But lawmakers hope that 2020 will be different. The last few years have seen voters support multiple tax increases and bond measures to fund affordable housing—and become increasingly likely to say yes to housing subject to their approval.

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Published on Sunday, February 3, 2019 in Los Angeles Times
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