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Opinion: Affordable housing, a perfect storm

Affordable Housing, a Perfect Storm

  • Four decades of tax cuts reduced federal government revenue, eliminating funds for safety net programs including Section 8 subsidies and low income housing construction. State and local budgets followed.
  • Four decades of wage stagflation, middle class income did not keep pace with inflation.
  • Cost of housing in coastal zones is out of reach of the middle class.
  • Income and wealth inequality increased the gap between the haves and the have nots.

Does State housing policy and Measure U provide a viable solution?

When Affordable Housing is not Affordable Housing

Encinitas will achieve a certified Housing Element with passage of Measure U because the State Department of Housing and Community Development policy of “Default Density” defines 25 housing units per acre as “affordable” regardless of the sale price. This discrepancy has been the prime reason residents oppose State mandated affordable housing, because it is not affordable housing.

The state requirement is for 1,286 affordable housing units, including a buffer the total is 1,504. But 1,504 new housing units could result in 2,000 new housing units because developers can seek a 33% increase in the total number of units under  the City’s “Density Bonus” policies.

Of the total number of housing units only 15% will be sold at purchase prices that meet state and federal income definitions of a low income family of four. Developers must recoup the losses from selling 15% of housing for far below market forcing them to sell the remaining 85% at what ever the market will bear, prices that are out of the reach of the middle class. This cycle repeats in 2021 with an additional requirement for more so-called affordable housing.

Past elections and polling results demonstrate that residents are opposed to additional housing. But there is more to Measure U than just new housing. Zoning changes include density up to 40 units per acre, building heights up to 3 stories or 37 to 42 feet, lower design standards, language to weaken or reverse Proposition A , a reduction of 2 parking spaces to 1 per unit, increased lot coverage and reduced setbacks.

Encinitas is a bedroom community. Existing zoning does not exceed 25 units per acre in most of the City. Of the 25,920 housing units, 80% are one to two story single family dwellings. A major reason residents oppose high density projects; bigger, taller buildings overshadow single family homes and 1 parking space per unit increases street parking in adjacent neighborhoods.

More Housing does not equal Affordable Housing

There is a housing crisis when it comes to the cost of housing but more housing alone is not the solution. My review of current projects under construction in Carlsbad and Santa Barbara finds that the average fixed cost of labor and materials per unit for a 40 units per acre development is $250,000. The cost of land increases that to $400,00 to $550,000 per unit. Developers need extraordinary profits to justify their investment,

Affordable housing can not be built without subsidies, yet the City of Encinitas has not once officially proposed providing a subsidy. Carlsbad, Oceanside, Santa Cruz and other cities have provided free land and low interest loans to non-profits to build 100% affordable housing projects.

VOTE NO on Measure U.

Encinitas voters face a dilemma, a yes vote rewards the building industry, an out of date state housing policy, local politicians and their campaign contributors.

A no vote moves the debate to Superior Court. The outcome is hard to predict and could involve denying Proposition A protection for Housing Element Updates and adoption of Measure U without any changes. There is also the question whether the city will defend the issues it has raised with the court countering the claims of the building industry and a tenants rights organization.

Despite the possibility of court intervention, Measure U should be defeated as it is not a solution to the lack of low income housing

Only recently has the idea come to the forefront; that pushing back against the State Department of Housing and Community Development and SANDAQ may be the best long term strategy to protect our City from over development

Brian Burke, Encinitas

1 comment

R. Real October 14, 2018 at 9:47 am

Jump into the smart world of ADU’s. Firms like Amerisus sell ADU kit homes with all the needed materials starting at $50k. Add $50 for labor + $25 k for fees & utility connection. Land is free as ADU goes on existing property. Big plus is homeowner has project that is easily fundable & in the end generates significant monthly revenue stream.

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