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Saying the California Dream has slipped away for too many for far too long, a statewide nonprofit launched the California Dream Index at a virtual gathering of nearly 800 elected, civic and business leaders last week.

“Why are we preventing people from building their legacy?,” asked Lori Gay, who heads a Los Angeles area affordable housing organization at 2020’s California Economic Summit. “All government levels need re-education. They need a brainwash.”

“Why are we preventing people from building their legacy? All government levels need re-education. They need a brainwash.”Lori Gay, Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles 

Jennifer Hernandez, who serves on California Forward’s leadership council, was more pointed in placing blame for increasing the cost of housing in the state. “There’s a whole segment of the climate regime that doesn’t believe in capitalism and they’d just as soon start by making sure there’s no homeownership,” said Hernandez. “Somebody decided that it was OK to end homeownership in California, and that wasn’t voted on by anybody.”

Other members said it’s time to re-define the government’s role in subsidizing affordable home ownership to help minority communities close the wealth gap.

A working group of members agreed on the need to make sure that home ownership is front and center for state and local governments in 2021, according to a news release from the organization.

Homeownership as an Equity Issue

Portrait of Jennifer L. Hernandez

“It’s all about getting government out of the way to restore attainable, affordable homeownership to median income families.”– Jennifer Hernandez, California Forward

Jennifer LeSar, CEO of LeSar Development Consultants added, “We need to keep making the case that home ownership is an equity issue first and a housing issue second,” according to the release.

California Forward plans to issue a white paper in early January addressing the issue with a game plan of how the legislatures and local governing bodies can better support homeownership.

“There’s a huge racial justice element to this, too, because people who aren’t homeowners are much more likely to be brown or black,” said Hernandez. “It’s all about getting government out of the way to restore attainable, affordable homeownership to median income families.”

California Dream Index

California Forward’s California Dream Index is designed to help public and private decision-makers develop data-informed policy decisions and track progress. It measures the following 10 key indicators of economic mobility, social security and inclusion, over time:

  • Air Quality
  • Short Commutes
  • Broadband Access
  • Early Childhood Education
  • College & CTE Certifications
  • Income Above Cost of Living
  • Affordable Rent
  • Home Ownership
  • Prosperous Neighborhoods
  • Clean Drinking Water

With the ability to analyze data by race and ethnicity, geography, income, and educational attainment, the group says the index allows for “apples to apples” comparisons by county and region to better assess progress as well as view the interconnectivity of the indicators throughout the state.

The group also put out a link to an interactive online map.

Debbie Chang, president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation introduced the index during the summit.

“The indicators are really terrific,” said Chang in a news release. “It’s so helpful to be able to cut the data by region, race, ethnicity, and more. Learning from each other is so key for progress.”

The index shines a light on current racial disparities. In 2010, for example, it show California Latinos had 19% lower broadband adoption than the state as a whole. Since then, there has been marked progress. In 2018, Latinos had 80% broadband adoption compared to 84% for the state as a whole.

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