By Rev. Richard Lawrence
It is a huge mistake for the Union Tribune to throw rocks at the glass house in Sacramento, as it has recently done, while ignoring our local shrine of good government.
Somehow, the City of San Diego was able to dissolve the “State of Emergency due to a Severe Shortage of Affordable Housing” without having taken any substantial actions of any kind—most specifically ignoring the Affordable Housing Task Force (AHTF) Report of 2003. That Task Force, chaired by former City Manager Jack McGrory, was organized to address the housing crisis and recommended measures to address the unmet housing needs of 32,275 units and the additional annual need for 8,415 housing units.
We were charged with laying out what meeting that goal would require and proposed:
1)Each community planning group should designate sites for 2,500 multi-family units in order to qualify for infrastructure funding.
2) The position in the Mayor’s [City Manager’s] Office of Housing Czar should be filled asap to ensure recommendations of the AHTF were implemented.
3) Our infrastructure deficit should be addressed by issuing a $1 billion infrastructure bond supported by a Parcel Tax that would cost each property owner $11/month or $132/year.
4) Revenue sources for affordable housing should be increased by:
a. Increasing Redevelopment set aside (now moot);
b. Re-establishing Housing Trust Fund Commercial (Linkage) Fees to original levels; and
c. Working for voter approval of an increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and the creation of a new Car Rental Tax.
5) $1 million should be allocated in the budget to increase targeted code compliance in hopes of preserving existing, aging housing.
6) Accessibility to affordable units and all housing in the City should be increased by application of the principles of Universal Design in 25% of all public development.
It is worth repeating some words from the City Manager’s report to the Land Use and Housing Committee on June 18, 2003: “Addressing the housing crisis will require political courage. There are no easy solutions. The system must be changed and bold solutions must be developed.”
So, after hearing this report, what did the City do in response to the Task Force recommendations?
You guessed it—almost nothing except for one RFP for new housing while ignoring the actions the Task Force had identified as required to address the crisis.
It is amazing that the State of Emergency that warranted the six-months of work by the Task Force has mysteriously disappeared. Perhaps that suggests how cavalier the City of San Diego is about our affordable housing crisis.
If we are going to join the UT’s rock throwing, then I’d suggest the appropriate target is our own City Council.
The second barrage should go at our Housing Commission which needs to be replaced by a new housing agency filled with passionate advocates for affordable housing who will fight for the implementation of the Task Force Report’s recommendations. I would suggest the list of possible members start with a review of the membership of that now defunct Task Force.
Our third target: ourselves–for being so callous as to ignore a problem that plagues nearly 50% of our neighbors with housing costs that force us to make impossible decisions about whether we eat or pay the rent. And for those with a little higher income, you can just forget about ever owning a home here.
How is that not as state of emergency?