As we return to Sacramento for the second year of our legislative session, I am reflecting on what we accomplished in our first year in office.
Our focus has been what we refer to as “The Three H’s” — Housing, Homelessness and Health Care. These are the three issues that motivated me to run for office, that are a priority for our community, and that I committed to working on — starting on day one. That’s why, when we secured a historic $20 million in investments in our district, a majority of it went to support work addressing the Three H’s. And, our legislative efforts focused on the Three H’s, too.
Years ago, our community was one people moved to because of the affordable housing. It was possible for a family to buy a nice home in an area with good schools where they felt safe and could raise their kids, without having to struggle every month to pay their mortgage.
Now, when I talk to these families, I hear parents concerned that their adult children cannot afford to live in the neighborhood they raised them in. Too many are being priced out of our community. And too many are barely able to make their mortgage or rent payments each month. For those who can’t, it means more and more people falling into homelessness, having to sleep in cars, on couches, or worse, on the street.
The housing affordability crisis must be met with urgency and an aggressive approach to create more housing that meets the needs of our community. That’s why in our first year, we focused our legislative efforts on this issue. We had an important bill (Assembly Bill 911) signed by the governor last year that will make housing more affordable, and streamline the development of affordable housing. This bill removes red tape and development restrictions during the purchase of the property, which will make a major impact on getting affordable housing developed across the state and help us address our housing affordability crisis.
My work on homelessness began years before I ran for the state Assembly, advocating for a permanent housing development in my neighborhood, which led to the founding of an organization supporting thousands of unhoused folks throughout the north San Fernando Valley. Living in a community where we have so many unhoused neighbors is simply unacceptable, and I have been committed to doing everything possible to change that.
In our first year in office, we focused on many ways to tackle our homelessness crisis, which requires an all-of-the-above approach, with housing first as our starting point. Permanent supportive housing with services is our best hope of getting people off the streets and into stable situations where they can find a job and thrive, but we must also focus on temporary housing, services for those who have yet to be placed in housing, mental health and other health care services, and more.
Last year, our bill to streamline affordable and homeless housing financing (AB 519) was signed by the governor. This bill will create a workgroup tasked with removing red tape and streamlining the statewide affordable and homeless housing funding process to get housing built for those who need it most, as quickly as possible.
As people struggle to afford housing, they are also struggling to afford their health care costs. From monthly premiums to co-pays and more, so many in our community don’t get the care they need because they can’t afford it, even with insurance.
Working for the California Nurses Association for 13 years, I have a deeply personal connection to our work on expanding access to health care. No one should have to choose between going to the doctor and keeping a roof over their head — and if it weren’t for special interests driving up health care costs, this wouldn’t be our reality.
I’m so proud that we won an administrative investment that will eliminate health insurance premiums and greatly reduce co-pays for Covered California recipients who are caught in the middle — paying for insurance they can’t afford to use. We also passed a law (AB 1697) that was signed by the governor to modernize health care and remove barriers to access by allowing patients to use electronic signatures to share their medical history and authorize care. Finally, patients will receive prompt care without compromising their security or delaying access to health care.
So, as we look to the new legislative year that began just one week ago, we are once again going to prioritize our Three H’s — housing, homelessness and health care. Too many people in our community are struggling, and it doesn’t need to be that way. If you or your family needs support, or has ideas on ways we can legislatively approach our Three H’s, please contact our office! We are here as a resource to you, bringing your voice and priorities with us to Sacramento. The only way we can accomplish that is by hearing from you. You can reach us online at a40.asmdc.org/contact.
As the year progresses, make sure to keep an eye out for our work on the Three H’s. They are why I ran for office, and why I am so motivated to continue to serve.
Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, represents the 40th Assembly District, which includes most of the Santa Clarita Valley in addition to the northwest San Fernando Valley. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.