For the past 24 years, as a legal services attorney, first with Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc, and since 1996 with Affordable Housing Advocates , I have represented poor tenants in their fight for decent and affordable housing in San Diego. It hasn’t been easy, and after relating what most affordable housing advocates agree are some basic causes of and obstacles to resolving this crisis, I would like your input on what we should do about it.

That’s right, what we should do. For now, let’s forget about the practical difficulties and dream about what our region should be. Should San Diego students, military, seniors, farm workers, minimum wage workers, and other people of very modest means, be able to live in decent and affordable housing?

First, let’s clear up what is generally meant by the term “affordable” housing? Generally speaking, housing is affordable when the household pays 30 percent or less of its gross income on all housing costs, for renters this means rent and utilities. For our clients who earn from about $12,000 a year for a household of one to $42,000 a year for a family of 8, this means total monthly housing cost of $300 to $1,050.

Now for some widely accepted notions about the causes of and obstacles to resolving our affordable housing crisis:

1. Not enough resources: land, money, etc. dedicated to affordable housing development;

2. Lack of political will; and

3. NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) or prejudice/fear of the impact of the development of affordable housing on the existing community.

I think that No. 1 is caused by No. 2 which is in turn, at least in part, caused by No. 3.

Should every city in the region ensure the development of affordable housing, including rental housing for minimum wage workers?

Is a variety of housing types, densities and affordability necessary or important to every city? Why?

Can we all live together, or should affordable housing only be developed in certain areas?

What do you think?


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