A luxury apartment complex in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles on Aug. 7. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

For the first time since they began polling on this type of stuff, Californians have identified homelessness and housing as the most important issue confronting the state, topping perennial concerns like crime and the environment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has tried very hard to convince Californians he’s working on it. In recent weeks he’s toured the state touting expedited funding for homelessness, hired the homelessness expert pushed out by the Trump administration, and announced a 100-day challenge for local governments to target homelessness among young adults and veterans.

But Newsom’s ambitious agenda beyond housing has made it difficult to focus on the task at hand, said Ben Metcalf, former head of the state Housing and Community Development Department, who left his position earlier this year.

“There are more than a handful, a couple of handfuls, of really high priority things for (Newsom) and his administration that he’s trying to all get done at the same time,” said Metcalf on “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.”

“It is hard for any human being in any elected office to be really able to push forward on so many different fronts all at the same time.”

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter,” CalMatters’ Matt Levin and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon preview what housing storylines Newsom may or may not be involved with in 2020, and interview Metcalf on the lessons he learned working on the state’s most vexing issue.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Matt Levin