California governor's race: Cox and Newsom outline plans for housing and homelessness

Gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom and John Cox have both made affordability and opportunity key messages of their campaigns while offering vastly different roadmaps on how to keep Californians housed and give them a better quality of life.

Newsom, the state’s lieutenant governor, and Cox, a multimillionaire real estate investor, will face off Monday on KQED radio in their first and only post-primary debate before the November election. The debate will be featured on “Forum” and follow the show’s typical format without strict time limits or rules.
The faceoff will be a crucial opportunity for Republican candidate Cox, who has trailed Newsom in polls and fundraising, to get his message out or try to trip up Newsom on key issues. 

But before the two square off, KTVU sat down with both candidates to learn where they stand on two top issues facing residents: affordable housing and homelessness, and to discuss their key campaign messages.

Cox, 63, has made passing Proposition 6 to repeal the state’s recently passed gas tax and vehicle license increases a key campaign message, claiming regressive taxes are a major reason many families can’t make ends meet.
“These high fees are a major reason California now has the highest poverty rate in the nation,’’ Cox said.

He also supports what he calls “smart immigration” that favors those with skills needed to fill specific worker shortages instead of competing with Americans for jobs. Cox, of San Diego County, is backed by President Trump, who in May announced his support with a Tweet that said “California has a rare opportunity to turn things around and solve its high crime, high tax, problems — along with so many others.”  

Cox supports securing the United States-Mexico border and rejects California’s sanctuary state policy. Cox has said his self-made success in the business world allows him to relate to millions of residents who struggle to put food on the table and has criticized Newsom as a career politician who was backed in his own business endeavors by benefactor Gordon Getty, heir to an oil fortune.

Newsom, who lives in Marin County, sites his top priorities as creating jobs and reducing poverty, increasing affordable access to quality schools at all levels, protecting the environment, and “ensuring California continues to lead by example while actively resisting any attempt by the Trump administration to take us backwards.” 

Newsom, 50, has defended California’s status as a sanctuary state, called for the state’s public colleges and universities to be sanctuary campuses, and called on Congress to pass a “clean DREAM Act.” He has criticized Cox for failing to lay out detailed, comprehensive strategies to address the most pressing issues facing residents, such as affordable housing. 


It’s no secret that California's housing market is one of the most expensive in the nation. The median price for a home tops the $600,000 mark statewide and five of the nine Bay Area counties has a median home price above a million dollars. Moreover, every year, the state falls at least 100,000 units short of what it needs to keep up with the housing demand, driving many middle-class residents out of the state.
To meet the demand, Cox suggests easing regulations on builders, including replacing the California Environmental Quality Act, the state’s main environmental law governing development. He has also called on developers to build three million new homes over the next decade. He said a streamlined regulatory process for builders will save money and speed up development.  Cox has come out against a November ballot measure to help rent control expansion and the $4 billion statewide housing bond on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“My opponent, his answer is housing bonds and handing out subsidies to a few people. That may temporarily help a few people, but it’s not going to broadly increase the housing stock and result in prices coming down,’’ Cox told KTVU.

For his part, Newsom said he will lead efforts for an unprecedented California building boom by developing 3.5 million new housing units by 2025. He supports the proposed statewide housing bond and also offers several funding solutions to increase housing production, including increasing a state tax credit from $85 million to $500 million to finance low-income housing. Newsom also supports eliminating the building regulations that he said slows the construction of much needed middle-income homes.

“It’s not just about getting rid of regulations. It’s more complicated than that,’’ he said, adding that the state must financially reward cities that produce housing and punish those that fail. Linking transportation funding to housing goals will, Newsom said, encourage smart growth.

“We want to make sure that local government is incentivized, which means we want to match grant funding. We also want to dis-incentivize local government that is not meeting its housing goals,” Newsom said.

An increase in affordable housing, however, will not solve the state’s overwhelming homeless crisis.
“It’s out of control. It’s never been worse,’’ said Newsom, adding that 134,000 people are currently homeless in California. “Twenty-four percent of the nation’s homeless are in this state.”
If elected, Newsom wants to hire a statewide director on homelessness to work with local government and suggests improved services at state prisons to prevent inmates from being released without a place to go.
“We’ve been managing (the homeless) problem for too long, it’s time to solve it, which has not been the case in the past,’’ Newsom said, adding that as mayor of San Francisco he was instrumental in getting 10,000 people off the streets during his term.

Newsom’s plan to reduce homelessness also includes expanding social services and mental health services and improvements to bridge housing and permanent supportive housing.

“It’s a disgrace, it’s unacceptable and it’s gotten much, much worse than it ever has been in my lifetime,’’ Newsom said. “We need a governor who gives a damn about this, that is going to be aggressive and hold folks accountable at a local level to do more and do better.”

For his part, Cox claims that unlike other states, the majority of people living on California streets are there because they’ve been priced out of their homes. He also acknowledges that mental health problems and substance abuse issues leads to homelessness.

“Let’s dedicate some resources to mental health, dedicate resources to getting people off of drugs and alcohol so they can live productive lives. These are illnesses,’’ he said. “Now the other big thing is building affordable housing. I’m in the housing industry, I’m certainly going to devote myself to that as well.”
Check back with starting Monday for more stories about the governor’s race and where the two candidates stand on how to improve the Department of Motor Vehicles and how to best tackle   transportation and water issues.