We have a crisis in San Diego. The city’s thousands of homeless know this, the thousands of families on the brink of homelessness know this, and the thousands of residents faced with rising rents know this.
We need bold action to address this crisis.
From day one, my office has been working to address this issue. Actively seeking solutions to address the housing affordability and homelessness crisis are top priorities of my office.
Data shows that income and wages are not keeping pace with the rising costs of housing. Federal resources for programs, such as Section 8, do not match the continually growing demand. Development barriers exist in many communities, including permit processing times, outdated community plans and conflicting community priorities. Low housing vacancy rates are contributing to a competitive housing market, raising rents and hindering future growth. The bottom line is that we are not building enough homes for our workforce.
Countywide, median rents have increased 36 percent since 2000, yet median renter income has only increased by 4 percent. Our lowest-income renters are spending 69 percent of their income on rent, leaving very little left for food, transportation, health care and other necessary expenses.
With such a high cost of living, families who work in low-wage jobs and seniors on fixed incomes are particularly at risk of becoming homeless. Many residents are one paycheck away from living on the street.
One of the factors contributing to the increased housing costs is the shortfall of affordable rental homes. Our city needs over 35,000 affordable homes to meet the needs of our lowest-income residents, yet we are lagging behind in the number of units actually being produced.
As we struggle to facilitate the development of sufficient housing, the city needs to consider a variety of innovative short- and long-term measures to develop new housing units, with a focus on affordable and workforce housing.
Due to this ever growing crisis, I am proposing a plan that will get more units built, help people stay in their homes and increase the range of housing options – especially for those experiencing homelessness or who are on the brink of homelessness.
My plan proposes solutions to provide housing for those most in need by:
• Increasing the affordable and middle-income housing stock within the city of San Diego
• Preserving existing affordable housing
• Providing innovative housing solutions for the homeless
• Identifying public lands for housing opportunities
• Creating statewide floor-area ratio incentives in transit priority areas
• Seeking grant opportunities for new housing development
• Developing an affordable housing measure for the November 2018 ballot
On Monday, Mayor Kevin Faulconer presented his housing plan, as well as a number of other measures related to development permits. I support the measures outlined in his plan and believe they are vital tools to reduce the permit processing times. These measures are not enough, however, to catalyze the development of sufficient new housing – especially affordable and workforce housing – to really uplift those who need the most help.
My plan provides innovative solutions such as reducing development costs for affordable housing and companion units; increasing developers’ fair share of affordable housing; evaluating public land to determine its feasibility for transit-oriented affordable development; eliminating the need to build larger and ultimately more expensive units along our transit lines and working with all of our partners to bring forward a housing revenue ballot measure that works for all San Diegans.
We need to identify all available opportunities to improve housing affordability in the city.
Now is the time to bring all stakeholders together to create a solution. We must have an open conversation about how to deploy our limited resources to create transformative change in our housing landscape, driven by our common interest in making San Diego a better place to live, work and play, but more importantly lift up people’s lives by providing a healthier place to live.
I will present my plan at the July 26 Smart Growth and Land Use Committee meeting and hope that what I am bringing forth helps push the city forward to begin addressing this crisis.
Georgette Gómez is a member of the San Diego City Council representing District 9. Gómez’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.