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Many states are feeling the housing squeeze, but maybe none as much as California. And, fortunately, California s routinely known for its forward-thinking, cutting-edge policies. Here, the housing issue is outlined and legislators and academics are trying to find the way to manageable solutions.

On any given night in California there are about 134,000 people without a home, according to annual data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s nearly equivalent to the population of Pasadena sleeping on the street, on a bench or in a shelter.

California’s homeless population jumped 13.7 percent between 2016 and 2017. And those 134,000 Californians without a place to call home are the visible edge of a much larger, much deeper housing problem in the state. “We now know that there is a very close connection between housing costs and homelessness,” said Margot Kushel, director of the University of California San Francisco Center for Vulnerable Populations.

The sky-high costs of renting and buying a home mean many residents are just getting by. People are being forced to choose between paying their rent and buying food. They are selling their belongings, working 7 days a week, doing whatever it takes to keep their home. For many, the California Dream has been shrunk down to keeping a place to live.

According to an analysis by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, California has only 22 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income households. Affordability in this case means total housing costs are at or below 30 percent of area median income.

Put another way, the state is short more than a million rental units that are affordable and available to extremely low-income Californians. “That probably describes more than any other reason why we have a homelessness crisis in California,” said Kushel.

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