July Housing Roundup

A Busy Month

July was a busy month for the Housing Committee.  We spent quite a lot of time at the San Diego City Council, tracking five important issues:
  • A $900M affordable housing bond, proposed by the San Diego Housing Federation
  • A proposal to ban discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders
  • A proposal to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (hotel tax)
  • A proposal to build Permanent Supportive Housing in all Council districts
  • A proposal to increase the “Inclusionary Requirement,” that forces developers to include affordable housing in their developments, or pay a fee so the San Diego Housing Commission can fund affordable housing
Members of the Housing Committee were present when all these issues were discussed, advocating for more affordable housing in San Diego.  The outcomes were mixed.

The Housing Bond

The $900M housing bond would have made a substantial dent in the city’s deficit of affordable housing, at a very modest cost to the average homeowner.  Homeowners (especially white homeowners) are and have been subsidized in very many ways by our government, and a hundred or two dollars per year would not hold a candle to these subsidies.  For example, the Federal government spends twice as much per year in tax credits to homeowners (or homesellers) as it does on all housing subsidies for the poor. Sadly, this much needed housing bond was withdrawn by its proponent, the San Diego Housing Federation, due to the Mayor’s proposal to renovate the Civic Center, which includes a half-hearted pledge to perhaps spend a little money on homelessness.

Section 8 Discrimination Ban

Councilmember Georgette Gómez brought forth a proposal to ban discrimination in housing based on source of income.  This would apply to Section 8 voucher holders and also some others, such as  homeless people who are given vouchers. We spoke in favor of this at both the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee (where it was referred to Council without recommendation, on a 2-2 vote) and at the full Council (where it passed, 7-1.)  We view this as a very positive development; Section 8 voucher holders are overwhelmingly people of color, and to denial of housing to Section 8 holders is often a simple proxy for racial discrimination.

Transient Occupancy Tax

Councilmember David Alvarez proposed a ballot initiative to raise the Hotel Tax to provide a new source of funding for the Homeless.  This increase in the hotel tax would provide approximately the same amount of funding the City of San Diego currently spends on Homeless services; we support it strongly and hope to see pass in November.  We did, however, warn the City that we would watch them closely, and see that this funding was not used to replace other monies, as is sometimes done, but would result in a net funding increase.

Permanent Supportive Housing in All Districts

Councilmember Ward made a proposal to set a goal to build 140 units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) in each of our 9 Council districts.  This would yield enough units to house San Diego’s 1200 “chronically homeless” people.  The “chronically homeless” are people who are disabled, physically or mentally, to the point where they simply cannot get it sufficiently together to get or keep stable housing.  “Permanent Supportive Housing” means these folks get housing units that are not only very inexpensive, but also have other services available, such as onsite health services, caseworkers, etc.  It is truly the only way to get these folks off the streets (except for the Mayor’s method, which involves jail.)  PSH is not necessarily literally permanent; some folks do improve to the point where they no longer need supportive services; this is, however, quite rare in our red-hot real estate market.  Dr Branch served as our spokesman: We are pleased to note that this item passed was approved by the San Diego City Council Select Committee on Homelessness and should be docketed for the full council sometime early this fall.

The Inclusionary Requirement

Housing developers are subject to an “Inclusionary Requirement,” which means they are required to include a certain percentage of affordable housing in their developments.  When the inclusionary requirement was passed 15 years ago, it was set to 10% of the units in a housing development needed to be affordable for non-affluent people.  (Developers were allowed instead to pay a fee of ~$10 per square foot instead, for the City to use to support its own affordable housing efforts; you will see this referred to as an “In Lieu” fee.  The Council has voted to revisit this requirement; the intent is to see it raised to that more affordable housing is developed.  We spoke in favor of this also. The State of California does an assessment of housing needs in each area; for San Diego, they said our needs for 2010-2020 were: Overall, we’ve built a little less than half of what we need to build; the shocking thing is the vast majority (85% of it) is aimed at the affluent: We therefore support forcing developers to build more affordable housing. Questions?  Please contact the housing committee at [email protected].