Affordable housing projects come with plenty of expectations. Besides offering cheap rent for the poor, they’re supposed to be attractive and environmentally friendly and built by construction workers who get a “prevailing wage.” But all this comes at a huge cost: since 2007, almost $600 million in public funding has only built 24 housing projects with about 2,000 apartments.

The apartments are tremendously more expensive than private developments — some cost more than $500,000 to build each — and their high cost translates into less affordable housing overall.

“Today, many in the affordable housing industry describe their business simply as ‘The Game,’ in which a core cadre of developers partner with government allies to build increasingly elaborate and expensive buildings in a lucrative, high-stakes competition funded by taxpayers,” reports Will Carless in a VOSD investigation.

How fancy are these affordable homes? Carless visited one and offered this enticing description: “Curved benches, sculpted from individually carved pieces of wood, sit under soft mood lighting. Along one wall, a glowing recycled panel flecked with inlaid pine needles and twigs lists the building’s sustainability achievements: gold LEED certification, rooftop solar panels, biodegradable carpeting and low-emission organic paints. Outside the front door, there’s a living wall inlaid with cacti and other plants.”

Even those in the industry recognize it’s gotten out of control. “It’s just absurd to pay $400,000 for a studio. You could be buying every family a 5,000 square-foot house in Eastlake for that,” said a real estate broker.

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Read the full investigation.

NFL Closer to No-Lockout Goal

NFL team owners are supporting a proposed labor deal that would allow next season to happen as planned, but players still need to approve it. (NYT)

$1.8 Billion Loss Spooks Pension Board

The board that oversees the county employee pension system declined to invest $100 million with a fund run by a trader who lost $1.8 billion in controversial investments three years ago, the U-T reports. According to HFMWeek, a magazine for hedge fund managers, the firm targets net returns of approximately 15%.

Some board members were miffed that they weren’t told about the loss. The U-T paraphrases a pension consultant as saying it “conducts extensive reviews of the investment managers it recommends but routinely excludes some details from their reports to clients.”

Media stories about the trader and his epic 2008 problems are among the first hits on a Google search of his name.

DeMaio’s New DeMaio Business

Councilman Carl DeMaio has a new business: managing his investments.

Minkow Sentenced While His Church Stews

Barry Minkow, the scamster-turned-reformed scamsterturned-scamster, has been sentenced to prison for five years in a stock fraud case. The restitution he has to pay: $563 million. But he doesn’t have to report for prison for 60 days. (Bloomberg)

The San Diego church where Minkow served as pastor is reportedly sifting through alleged evidence that it was snookered. “Church auditors said Minkow opened 10 accounts in the church’s name using ‘forged signatures’ and sending the bills to his office set up in the church. Additionally, auditors said Minkow ‘fabricated church board minutes,’” 10News reports. “Church auditors also said Minkow stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks and cash meant for church donations.”

Church members said last week that they’d given money to projects “such as a trucking venture that he launched on church property, a gasoline venture in Escondido, or a Hollywood-style movie version of his life,” the U-T reported.

Some Borders Bookstores May Get Saved

There’s a small glimmer of hope for those who will miss the local Borders bookstores as they go out of business: the Books-A-Million chain is wants to buy as many as 35 of its 399 stores. (WSJ)

There’s no word on the fate of its two San Diego-area locations. But the small number of chain bookstores in the city may inspire interest in Mission Valley store. Also, it’s always seemed much more crowded than the nearby Barnes & Noble at Hazard Center and B&N-affiliated Bookstar in Point Loma. (The other remaining local Borders is in National City’s Plaza Bonita mall.)

The demise of the Borders chain is bad news for landlords, says Retail Traffic, but “it won’t have nearly the same impact as the liquidations of Mervyn’s, Linens ‘n Things and Circuit City a few years earlier.” However, a real estate specialist says that many of the chain’s leases “are way over market” price, meaning landlords may have to accept less rent.

Meanwhile, Slate says the internet isn’t entirely to blame for the death of Borders. “The better reason for its demise is that Borders had long lost its competitive edge on many fronts, from corporate strategy to coffee. It died by a thousand — OK, maybe just four or five-self-inflicted paper cuts.”

Not a Class Act

We’ve been following a theme we call the “Dissolving City“: neighborhoods band together and pay for services that the city won’t or can’t provide, like extra library hours and street maintenance. Now, there are a couple new twists on this idea.

For one, not everybody wants to pitch in for additional services. North Park property owners just turned down the opportunity to pay a new tax for a “Clean and Safe” program despite the support of the area’s councilman. (SD Reader)

And now comes news that someone decided to take neighborhood beautification into their own hands and may pay a price in court if caught. In broad daylight and in full view of neighbors, benches were stolen from a public bluff in Ocean Beach earlier this month.

The benches, which memorialized two people who have died, have since been recovered. Police are investigating; the thief may have been annoyed by the benches and the people who used them. (U-T)

Hey, thief! Stealing city property that you don’t like sets a bad precedent, and fooling around with memorial benches is just plain tacky. And if you need lectures from me about how un-classy you are, you’re really got a problem.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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