Candidate for Sacramento County supervisor vows action on housing crisis
By Charles Crowder
Homelessness in Sacramento has tipped the scales into a full-blown crisis. As a fellow human being, I find this to be despicable. As a Sacramento County resident, I find this to be inexcusable. As a person with a roof over my head, I find this to be my civic duty.
Simply stated, Sacramento is not building enough housing. Let’s do the math. On an annual basis, our county is growing by 29,000 people while constructing only 1,100 apartment units. Doesn’t add up, right?
As a supervisor, I will strongly advocate for the homeless population from a new proactive stance. The current reactionary approach has done nothing but lead to a decade of political infighting, squandered funds, disorganization—and more people resorting to life on the streets. It’s a tried and true adage: Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. How about turning the tables and employing some common sense, starting right now?
The county can proactively begin constructing smart infill housing. The county owns vacant and suitable parcels of land, available through the Economic Development Department, which could be expeditiously zoned to promote further expansion. Builders have choices. Because the rents in San Francisco and Oakland are much higher than Sacramento, we must be proactive to stimulate needed growth.
Housing is a challenge, but a relatively easy to surmount. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these poor souls without homes do not choose this as an alternative lifestyle. A small percentage fell into homelessness because of addiction or mental illness; a much greater percentage now suffer from one or both because of being homeless. They need services such as drug treatment, health care and job training.
It’s not illegal to be homeless, but it’s unlawful to urinate or defecate in public. Welcome to the revolving doors of law enforcement. Unbeknownst to our citizenry, dozens of arrests are made every day. Deputies write arrest reports, jailers complete the intake process, prosecutors order releases and homeless inmates are purposely let out at midnight.
The burden of the huge homeless population falls on our first responders: police, sheriff’s and fire departments, and our emergency rooms and hospitals. This effort drains many personnel hours and millions of dollars.
We can do better. I could take $1 million of land and turn it into a 250-unit apartment building valued at $50 million. What if we did that 30 times? What if we required 25% low-income units? That could mean 62 affordable units in a 250-unit building. To get some homeless people off the streets right away, I would like to see tiny homes built with medical services, showers and social services. Residents would have to pay a little rent and work each day.
The present track we are on is going nowhere. If the homelessness problem is really important, then we must act accordingly. My training in city and regional planning and work in the County Assessor’s office has given me the perfect skill set to help resolve this problem—if other supervisors are willing to make brave and bold decisions to help all Sacramentans.