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As YIMBY, or Yes In My Backyard, Democrats we support building more housing to provide affordable homes for working San Diegans and to counter the homeless crisis facing our region.
But we also recognize that the reality of housing is complex. Market forces dictate certain types of home construction that reward developers with the best return on investment. For many developers, it simply doesn’t make sense to build workforce or affordable housing because of the cost of land, uncertainty in the development process and the threat of litigation.
We all know there is no silver bullet for solving the housing crisis. A problem as complex as this requires an integrated set of solutions.
As an example of one approach, public agencies incentivize developers to include affordable housing in their projects. For instance, California’s Density Bonus Law allows increased density and reduced parking and setback requirements, depending on the amount of affordable housing included in a project.
Another answer that has proven to be successful is funding programs to build and preserve affordable housing. To that end, progressives need to support Propositions 1 and 2 in the November election.
Funds from Prop. 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act, would be used for supportive housing, transit-oriented development and homeowner assistance through a variety of proven and effective programs, including the Cal Vet home loan program. Prop. 2 authorizes the state to use Proposition 63 tax revenue on $2 billion in bonds for homelessness prevention housing for people in need of mental health services.
The reasons to support Props 1 and 2 are dire.
One in three Californians is severely rent burdened, paying more than 50 percent of their income toward rent; housing costs continue to climb because of the lack of affordable homes; a significant number of residents spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing, with some spending as much as 50 percent. And don’t forget, 20 people died in San Diego because of a hepatitis outbreak that most impacted people without homes in San Diego.
Most of the population growth in San Diego comes from San Diegans having babies. It does not come from people moving here. That means that measures like Props. 1 and 2 will help keep San Diegans in San Diego, rather than forcing them to leave our region to seek a place where they can afford to raise a family. The housing crisis affects large numbers of young people, precisely the demographic we need to keep in San Diego to fuel the local economy.
It is important to note that Prop. 1 replenishes programs that we know work — specifically almost $5 billion of funds from Proposition 46 and Proposition 1C that have been expended. Also, with the loss of redevelopment funds, $1.5 billion of annual state investment for housing is no longer available.
In addition to helping veterans, Prop. 1 will build at least 50,000 housing units for children and working families, seniors and people with disabilities. The economic impact is significant as well: Prop. 1 is projected to create 147,000 jobs and inject $24.5 billion into the state’s economy. Passing Prop. 1 also makes us eligible for federal matching funds.
Again, there is no single solution to the housing crisis. Making under-utilized transit parking lots available for housing, incentivizing builders to include affordable housing units in their developments, and funding the preservation and building of affordable housing, all work together to solve the housing crisis.
Maya Rosas is the founding president of the YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County and director of policy for Circulate San Diego. Mark West is a retired Naval officer and Imperial Beach city councilman.