San Diego’s Unmet Housing Needs of 32,275 Units

by on November 28, 2016 · 7 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, History, Homelessness, Politics, San Diego

Editor: The following is an opinion piece by the Rev. Richard Lawrence, a retired civil rights leader and an affordable housing advocate. It was first posted at  San Diego Free Press

unmet housing needs in San DiegoBy 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?


Rev LawrenceRev. Richard Lawrence is a retired civil rights leader and an affordable housing advocate. His list of honors includes the San Diego Housing Federation’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” and a San Diego City Council declaration making November 10, 2013 “Richard Lawrence Day.”

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

klatuberatanicto November 28, 2016 at 3:07 pm

There has never really been “affordable” housing in San Diego, anymore than there has been in Manhattan high rises! Its simply not a cheap place to live. That, and it is not the taxpayers job to subsidize housing for people that cannot even afford to be here. They can should move, or simply find a better job.

Trying to make one of the most expensive cities in the US “affordable” for people whom cannot support themselves here, is frankly a waste of time and taxpayer money. If you cant cut it financially in SoCal, dont look to my tax dollars or city govt to bail you out!


Chris November 28, 2016 at 6:31 pm

While San Diego as always been expensive, here is the thing klatuberatanicto. Things (and you know this) have really gotten out of hand in the past few years. The cost of living vice the the median wage is WAY more disproportionate than it was only as much as five years ago. It is not fair that people are being forced to leave the city they were born and raised in. And don’t give me some fucking lecture about how life isn’t fair. No it’s not, but there are always things that can be done to at leave improve it. When teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, military members (some who are on food stamps and cannot just pick up and leave), and many others who are vital and necessary to have in our communities are forced to move miles out of the city then something is wrong. Not only is it wrong, it can have drastic consequences to our city if people in those professions collectively pack up and move. And not everyone can just go get a better job or relocate.


Chris November 28, 2016 at 6:33 pm

And to add, I’m not implying everyone should be able to afford to live by the beach or in La Jolla.


John November 30, 2016 at 8:04 pm

I am not sure if your comment was a serious one or not, but in good faith will assume you really believe these things. Moreover, I believe people who think like you do are behind this inaction and the system that has brought us to where we are now.
Why should we make an effort to provide affordable housing, they ask?
People who lack the funds to buy a 65 year old 3 bedroom 1100 s.f. home for $600,000 (using what a friend bought last year in NW Clairemont) must be lazy or uneducated. Whats wrong with them, they should just get a better job! Why are they working at Wendys for minimum wage, don’t they know that In-N-Out pays $11 an hour?
This is Americas finest city, well at least except for Manhatten, we can’t let just anyone call themselves a San Diegan. In fact we should have standards, we will take applications and prospective residents must earn $150,000 or more annually or we will put them on the next bus to Fresno or Oklahoma or wherever it is THOSE kind of people go when they can’t make it here any more.
Okay, enough of the parody, and I tried avoiding projection or putting words in your mouth. I don’t think I did and maybe you don’t realize how ugly your comment may appear to some.
I think the public officials and the constituents whose interests they put first- we are talking about people who write a several hundred or thousand dollar check for the city council or mayoral candidate each election-are doing this to keep that finest city thing (their vision of it) on the right track.
Keep the riff raff out. Build only luxury homes so only those who can afford them stat or come here. Gentrify neighborhoods and drive out the poor, and drag their feet on affordable housing, and create housing shortages, because it drives up the value of THEIR properties they already own, and allows them to increase rents and lamely cry its the market driving that, not their own subtle participation in an ideological conspiracy of greed and elitism.
Their vision of that finest city means never having to drive through neighborhoods with dilapidated houses or apartments, not having to sit in rush hour traffic next to 20 year old beater cars, nor pay the police to patrol ghetto blocks.
Anyone who doesnt live the good life they have, should have just gottenna better job, or maybe they shouldnt be here at all.


Sean m November 29, 2016 at 11:19 am

San Diego spends about $400k just to construct each unit of affordable housing. Spending a billion dollars on affordable housing would create about 2500 units, less if you include reserves for management costs.

Raising the construction costs and property ownership costs does not make homes more affordable.


John November 30, 2016 at 8:17 pm

I kmow a few people, myself included, who would be content in something like the medium to larger sized storage sheds you see sold in the parking lot of Home Depot. It would be better than trying to find a parking spot every night.
What are those like $3-5k? How much more would it take to put a tiny sink/shower/commode booth in it, like a small RV or boat has? A two burner stove and small fridge?
Mass produced, $20k?
Ah, but that wouldnt be up to CODE, we just couldnt allow people to live in such a primitive,unsafe dwelling.
Instead we will do nothing and look at them pushing their shopping carts past our McMansions!


Sean m December 1, 2016 at 10:35 am

Unfortunately the city is not able to build affordably.

You could build a shack yourself for much cheaper than the city can, but you will need to spend at least $20k on a fire suppression sprinkler system to keep you safe. You will also need to pay big bucks for the energy consultant to ensure it meets the state’s climate goals. Construction costs in Ca cost about 25% more than the rest of the country but you should appreciate that the laws that increase construction costs are supposed to help everyone and you are greedy if you want to save money.


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