A California lawmaker has a new way to solve the state’s housing crisis: give cities money to turn their public golf courses into affordable housing estates.
Assembly Bill 672presented by Congresswoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, would allocate $50 million in public funds to incentivize cities to convert their golf courses.
At least 25% of this housing must be affordable for low-income families, and at least 15% of the development must be preserved as publicly accessible open space as part of the proposal.
The bill comes as golf has seen something of a resurgence in popularity. During the pandemic, outdoor sport offered people an attractive and relatively safe way to get out and about. The number of rounds of golf played in the United States jumped 13.9% in 2020, according to Golf Datatech.
In a phone interview, Garcia said many California cities are struggling to find space for new affordable housing projects. Garcia gave the example of his hometown of Bell Gardens.
The city has very little suitable space to build more housing. Yet he continues to support a golf course that she says is underutilized. Under his bill, Bell Gardens could receive money to convert this golf course into more housing.
Garcia said there are other golf courses nearby that people can continue to use. California has more than 900 golf courses.
“I have nothing against golf and I’m not trying to get rid of all golf courses,” she said.
His bill got two votes in the Assembly committee. Golf course owners are lobbying against this.
“AB 672 unfairly singles out golf courses, ignores the many benefits golf brings to communities, and threatens to further reduce the limited open space and outdoor recreation opportunities currently available to California families,” California Golf said. Course Owners Association in a written statement. to the Housing and Community Development Committee of the Assembly.
The bills are backed by a number of affordable housing organizations, including the Abundant Housing LA group, which said in a statement to the committee, “As golf declines in popularity, the state can enter into a” large market” to encourage the redevelopment of golf courses in a manner that promotes equity and affordability.
Garcia said the bill is meant to give California cities options — there’s no mandate attached to it.
“This bill is permissive, it does not impose anything on any local jurisdiction,” she said.
This story was originally published January 24, 2022 5:00 a.m.