This is what I propose to address the lack of affordable housing in San Diego:

1. Save what we’ve got, through conservation and rehabilitation.

After all, building more units won’t address the unmet need unless we are adding to what we already have, not subtracting from it. For example, the 60-unit William Penn Hotel — a very low-income affordable SRO — was converted to 18 market-rate apartments. SROs are the smallest and most affordable of housing units. More about SROs here. And unlike other cities, San Diego has lost 10 percent of its apartments to condominium conversions since 1999. La Mesa and Santee cap the number of conversions to no more than 50 percent of the new apartments built in the last two years.

2. Require that new and re-development is inclusive.

Mixed-use and mixed-income development, including housing affordable to the extremely low income, ensures that affordable housing opportunities are distributed throughout each community, city and the region rather than concentrated/segregated in particular areas. For example, a suit by Affordable Housing Advocates required San Elijo Hills to include 272 affordable apartments for families with children. That community has embraced diversity with the development of Copper Creek and Sage Canyon Apartments.

3. Ensure that money dedicated to affordable housing development is used for that purpose.

The region does have tens of millions of dollars to address the crisis, but not all money earmarked for affordable housing, development, like redevelopment agencies’ Low and Moderate Income Housing Funds, is used properly. For example, in each of the past five years more than 50 percent of Escondido’s agencies’ housing fund has been used to pay city staff salaries and benefits. In 2004-05, Escondido spent $1.5 million from its housing fund on staff, more than three times the next worst example cited in the State Report. See page 16 of 29.

Permanently deed restrict all affordable housing and monitor it to ensure that it remains occupied by and affordable to those it was meant to serve.

Redevelopment’s historic10- and 15-year minimum restrictions have been replaced by 45- and 55-year minimums, the maximum is the longest feasible time or in perpetuity, i.e. forever. State density bonus law requires a 30 year restriction. Since land will be scarcer and housing costs higher in the future, any expiration of affordability covenants will only require greater investments by future generations.

Even when deed restrictions are required, those responsible do not always monitor the units to make sure they remain affordable. (The Southeastern Economic Development Corp. failed to monitor for-sale units allowing unit originally sold for $180K to re-sell for $500K.)

Support affordable housing rehabilitation and development in your neighborhood and community.

  • Write your representative about the need for affordable housing;
  • Help make affordable housing developments a success by working with developers during the design phase and supporting the project at public hearings;
  • If you know of a substandard rental unit or complex, encourage the owner to seek a no-, low- or deferred rehabilitation loan from the city to upgrade or work with the tenants to do so;
  • Support the San Diego Housing Federation and other nonprofits working to create more affordable housing for all San Diegans.

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