AFFORDABILITY, AFFORDABLE HOUSING, AND THE HOMELESS CRISIS
HOW DID THIS CRISIS DEVELOP?
● Cuts in Federal and State funding
● Elimination of State Redevelopment Agency in 2012
● Increases in governmental regulations
● Reduced investment in middle and lower income housing countywide by nearly $124 million annually between fiscal years 2009 and 2016, a 69% reduction
● Other priorities were placed in the front of the line
● Disjointed, uncoordinated efforts
● Lack of regional leadership
1) A regional approach is necessary!! Unified leadership with the ultimate goal of secure housing, not shelters.
2) New funding… provide $100,000,000 a year of new funding every year for four years as loans available for development of low and middle-income housing. This will have a multiplier effect to attract state and local financing to equal approximately $400,000,000 to build new housing.
3) Provide mental health services act funding for homeless shelters and services. Use vacant county owned buildings for temporary shelters.
4) Make unused County-owned property available at a reasonable lease-rate for housing development. Encourage other municipalities and governmental agencies to do the same.
5) Fix or replace the coordinated assessment and housing placement system immediately.
6) Prepare for the receipt of the “no place like home” initiative funds to insure we receive our fair share.
7) Streamline the bureaucracy and reduce or waive building fees.
8) Actively participate in the state and federal advocacy for our fair share of funding.
Imagine if your “home” was always temporary: a shelter one night, a street corner the next, maybe a tent, or you feel lucky you have a car to sleep in. Your few belongings must be portable, too, and are always at risk of theft. Nothing is secure; much is scary. You are often crowded out of the good spots by the growing number of others seeking their space.
Homelessness continues to grow despite so many bright, committed people working to solve this problem. Non-profits, business leaders, government agencies, cities, housing developers, associations, churches, our elected officials and private individuals are all doing whatever they can do to help those in need. Each has an idea about how to help and solve the problem. However, the homeless numbers remain unacceptably high.
The face of homelessness has added many families, unemployed and underemployed men, women and their children, aged-out foster youth, seniors with one Social Security check, to name a few.
When you consider affordable housing, see what is happening now: You have a family of four (two children and a spouse) earn $72,750 ($35 an hour), which is 80% of the San Diego County Area Median Income, work full-time, and are trying to buy a home or rent an apartment while paying for one car, gasoline, food, utilities, clothes, child care, education expenses…it’s impossible. And if you qualify for Section 8 housing, there are 85,000 families ahead of you.
Imagine graduating from college and getting a job offer at $50,000 which is very exciting…and then learning you are in the “low income” category and can’t afford an apartment on your own.
How has this crisis developed? It’s complicated, but we must focus on the supply of affordable homes. Cuts in Federal and State funding, the elimination of the State Redevelopment Agency in 2012, reduced investment in middle and lower income housing and increases in regulations have led to this severe lack of housing. As a result, there has been a 36% increase in rents since 2000 while income has increased only 4% when adjusted for inflation. The waiting list for Section 8 vouchers is 10 years long.
The May 2018 report of the California Housing Partnership Corporation reports that the shortfall of affordable rental homes in San Diego is 143,800 homes. It is worse than we knew. California is 1.5 million affordable rental homes short. The decline in low income housing production financed through tax credits declined 45% from 2016 to 2017 in anticipation of the pending Federal tax reform. Median rent in California is $2,004 a month. The income needed to afford median rent is $6,680 a month. This is 3.5 times minimum wage to afford median rent. Californian’s lowest-income renters spend 66% of their income on rent, leaving little for food, transportation, healthcare and other essentials. The growth of rental apartment supply has not kept pace with growth in renter demand since 2008
We must harness our many different community efforts into one regional approach. It is time to pool our resources including political, human and financial capital. We need goals to measure our progress short-term and long-term goals, looking forward 10 and 20 years. It is time for the County to provide leadership to advance smart policies and increase the capacity of developers to build the necessary affordable housing for working families, new graduates, veterans, seniors and those living with mental and physical disabilities.
HOMELESSNESS: We must have a regional approach. We need stronger political will and a consolidated, committed political leadership. The County must be at the forefront of this effort.
The County can provide strong leadership to the Regional Task Force on the Homelessness in advancing its goals of unified leadership, effective governance, funding, system access/entry, coordinated outreach, emergency responses, and housing interventions with the ultimate goal that people secure housing not just shelter.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING – NEW FUNDING: Funding is the primary roadblock. We need to develop new local funding sources that can be leveraged with State and Federal resources to construct and preserve affordable housing, reduce housing costs and provide shelter, plus wrap-around services for homeless individuals.
The County, through Supervisors Ron Roberts and Dianne Jacob, offered $25 million as a loan and 11 County-owned properties as possible sites. This is a positive initial step by the County, but more needs to be done. As of the end of the fiscal year 2017, the County had $697 million in unassigned funds (County of San Diego Comprehensive Annual Financial Report).
I propose that the County immediately provide $100 million of the unassigned reserves each year for the next 4 years for both permanent loans and temporary bridge loans for low and middle-income housing developers. These are to be loans…not gifts.
Local funding sources are crucial in obtaining additional financing from State, Federal and tax credit sources. With $100 million from the County, developers will likely leverage that to $400 million from other sources, which would build approximately +1,000 units of new affordable units per year for 4 years. We need to quickly develop a program to properly administer this program and put these resources to work.
PUBLIC LAND: Again, this must be a regional approach. Each governmental entity needs to do its fair share. Through the RFP process, the County has solicited bids to develop county-owned buildings. This needs to be expanded. The County is a tremendous landowner and these parcels need to be analyzed for housing development, both affordable and market rate.
There are other governmental agencies with unused properties. We need a regional plan including local stakeholders such as the County, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, local school districts, cities, public housing authorities and others to require the development of affordable housing on public land, which could be done through a $1 per year lease of the land for affordable housing projects. According to a recent report by Circulate San Diego Real Opportunity, the Metropolitan Transit system owns substantial under-utilized properties that could potentially provide up to 8,000 additional units with more than 3,000 reserved as permanently affordable for low-income renters. Development of housing near transit centers is an ideal use of this publicly owned land.
I will immediately research County-owned properties that can be used for housing development and actively pursue help from other governmental agencies with available land that is determined to be suitable for housing.
I also propose that the County establish a fund to subsidize housing or shelters for those homeless individuals with physical and mental disabilities.
The January 2018 Point In Time Count showed the number of people experiencing homelessness is 8,576, reduced by a small margin over last year. Too many people do not have a permanent place to call home. About 39 percent of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in the region suffer from a mental health issue and 4 percent have a serious mental illness. Several currently vacant County-owned buildings could immediately be evaluated as possible temporary shelters. Mental Health Services Act money is available for this purpose.
I will make it a priority of the County to ensure the Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement System is improved immediately.
A significant problem is the out-of-date automated computer system currently being used to administer intake, assessments, coordinate placement and services. It desperately needs to be updated and upgraded. There are funds to solve this problem and we cannot waste time on these inefficiencies.
”NO PLACE LIKE HOME INITIATIVE”: When this State initiative successfully emerges from pending litigation, counties across the state will begin to receive large amounts of funds for the specific purpose of providing housing for the homeless. The details of the allocation among counties is still being discussed at the State level. However, the County must be prepared to receive and distribute these funds. Without an approved and effective system, San Diego County will not receive its fair share of these new funds. I will immediately work on designing and implementing a policy and program so that we are ready to get these funds working for our homeless neighbors.
STREAMLINE THE BUREAUCRACY FOR DEVELOPMENT OF ADDITIONAL HOUSING:
a. Fast track developments that include affordable units, market rate units and developments near transit centers.
b. Reduce the parking and commercial requirements of all projects, which will in turn reduce the costs.
c. Standardize fee structures, including the total amount of fees that can be charged, how the fees are calculated and when the fees are levied during the development process. Waive the fees for companion units (granny flats) to incentivize market rate building.
ACTIVE PARTICIPATION WITH STATE AND FEDERAL LEVEL ELECTED OFFICIALS:
Take a leadership role in lobbying efforts to receive Federal and State funds. Our County has often not received its fair share of Federal and State funds for many different reasons. With increased efforts from our local leadership, including the County, we can ensure these funds are distributed equitably.