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SCAG holds 2022 Regional Conference, swears in Palm Desert Mayor Jan Harnik as its new President

More than 500 elected officials and leaders from throughout Southern California gathered in Palm Desert.

The two day conference is focused on the challenges and opportunities ahead for the region.

Southern California Association of Governments addressed a variety of pressing issues throughout the area.

SCAG's, Executive Director, Kome Ajise tells me why it's important to work on solving problems regionally.

"What we try to do in this conference is to bring together bright minds, leaders of thought from across the region. And so have them come talk about the issues that are affecting us, the issues that are bigger than any one city to deal with," says Ajise.

Some of those issues include transportation and sustainability.

Palm Desert mayor and newly sworn in SCAG President, Jan Harnik, wants to focus on broadband accessibility.

“Because everything we do, we need broadband for. We need to be connected, and it's tele everything now. And it's so important that we make sure that we reach everybody in our underserved communities throughout our valley," says Harnik.

Another prevalent issue in Southern California is the housing crisis.

Steven Pontell, President of the National Community Renaissance, a non-profit dedicated to building affordable housing tells News Channel 3, "Six hundred thousand affordable units are necessary to meet the current growth projections within southern California. The average cost to build a new unit is about $500,000. And that's $300 billion necessary to produce the affordable housing. So there isn't enough money to do that.” 

Pontell tells me his organization wants to go beyond government funding to build affordable homes.

"We need to find new ways to use more private and market rate capital in order to produce housing that people can afford," says Pontell.

Pontell estimates the Coachella Valley needs approximately 30 thousand affordable housing units, which will require billions of dollars as well.

SCAG represents 6 counties in Southern California, and is the nation's largest metropolitan planning organization.

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Bianca Ventura

Bianca Ventura joined KESQ News Channel 3 as a reporter in February 2022.
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