California lawmakers hope voters will free up $2 billion in housing bonds for a homelessness program that has been stalled in court.
Two years ago, lawmakers authorized the bonds to build housing that includes mental health services for chronically homeless residents. To pay for it, they sought to use funds voters had approved for mental health under Proposition 63 in 2004.
The money hasn’t gone out to counties, though — a lawsuit contends that lawmakers must go back to voters before repurposing the funds they approved.
The Legislature voted Monday to put a measure on the ballot, which would resolve the lawsuit. The bill passed without opposition and heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
"We have sites identified. We are ready to go,” said Darby Kernan with the California State Association of Counties, who spoke to Capital Public Radio in April. “And so the delay has been a little frustrating from our perspective, because we really feel that this is an opportunity to address a critical population that are on the streets.”
Lawmakers had some warning that their proposal was on potentially shaky legal ground. In 2006, the state Attorney General’s Office issued an advice letter about a similar plan to use Prop. 63 funds for homeless housing. The letter found that the bonds likely needed voter approval.