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Even AARP endorses Sen. Wiener’s pro-housing bill

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“What is the point of aging in place if it means watching everyone you love have to move away?”

Photo by pbk-pg/Shutterstock

AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), a group of more than 38 million members that focuses on issues facing seniors, recently came out in favor of State Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB 50, the More HOMES (Opportunity, Mobility, Equity, and Stability) Act. The advocacy group joined efforts with California YIMBY, the pro-housing group who wants to make the Golden State a more affordable place to live via the acceleration of new stock.

“AARP members are increasingly drawn to our urban cores to enjoy the proximity of services and the walkability of our urban neighborhoods—and we want to help ensure there are enough affordable housing options to accommodate them,” Nancy McPherson, AARP California’s director, said in a statement.

Sen. Wiener’s SB 50, a revision of SB 827, would help expedite home building near transit stations. Last year, SB 827 failed to advance in the legislature after it was killed in committee.

SB 50 garnered more support because, unlike SB 827, this bill would include protections for low-income tenants and leniency for communities at greater risk of displacement. So far the new version of Sen. Wiener’s bill nabbed support from Habitat for Humanity, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, the California League of Conservation Voters, and the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR).

According to Wiener’s office, the More HOMES Act would “eliminate hyper-low-density zoning near transit and job centers, thus legalizing apartment buildings in these locations so that more people can live near transit and near where they work.”

The AARP’s endorsement is also welcome news to YIMBYs and area housing advocates who are, at times, misrepresented as twenty-something agents of multibillion-dollar developers.

“It is extremely exciting to see the AARP come on as a supporter of the More HOMES bill,” says Laura Foote, executive director of YIMBY Action. “Despite a lot of the rhetoric about older homeowners blocking housing, I think this recognizes that often older people feel just as trapped at stifled by the housing shortage as anyone else. Too many older people feel trapped in homes that don’t make sense for their lifestyles anymore, but aren’t able to scale down to an apartment in their neighborhood. It’s hard to age in place and maintain friendships in your community if it’s either maintain a suburban household or move to an assisted living facility.”

But as McPherson notes, AARP also sees the bill as a way to ensure that seniors won’t lose their support network to the housing crisis. “Many older adults who can afford to stay in California are seeing family members, close friends, and caregivers leave the state due to the high cost of housing,” she says. “We’re hopeful that the More HOMES Act will help correct this and provide more housing stability for Californians of all ages.”

“AARP knows that so many older people want their kids, their friends, people in healthcare, and everyone in their lives to be able to live in their communities,” Foote adds. “What is the point of aging in place if it means watching everyone you love have to move away?”

AAPR’s endorsement is seen as a coup for SB 50. In 2016, the senior citizen-focused group put their heft behind behind Los Angeles’s Measure M, a hike the sales tax to pay for major public transit projects. The measure cleaned up at the polls.

SB 50 still has hurdles to leap. It must first pass a senate committee hearing, stand to a vote from the legislature, then get signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, which, judging from his recent push to get cities to do their part to abate the housing crisis, may not prove a problem.